Urban Foraging Groups

Photograph: The London Orchard Project

After the rains of August it has been a rare treat to sunbathe in October and sit out on the balcony enjoying the bright sunshine, now it seems our Indian summer is starting to fade and Autumn is stepping in. The leaves are turning golden and fruit trees are laden with apples and pears. There are so many fruit trees lining our streets and parks that small foraging groups are forming determined to pick fruit that would otherwise go to waste. It’s a wonderful community activity with groups meeting to go picking and then sharing recipes to use with their harvest.

Squashed cherries and plums on the pavement, from The Urbane Forager blog

According to some research the British waste more food than any other nation, with estimated figures claiming that 30 – 40 % of all supermarket produce bought is thrown away. According to Biffa, one of the largest waste handlers in Britain, the company reports that households now throw out more than supermarkets and the food processing industry combined. Food waste roughly makes up one third of the weight of all the waste produced by households. “People just buy more than they can eat,” said Peter Jones, a Biffa director. Not only is this economically wasteful, particularly during these risky times but it’s having a huge environmental impact. Surely if people connected the journey their food made they would perhaps use their food more wisely. And you need not travel far for hand-picked produce. You don’t need to board a train to discover a country orchard, you just need to look outside your window. Foraging group “Urban Harvest” wants people to start foraging and picking local fruits, “streets & gardens are full of unharvested fruit. Perhaps the trees are too big, the people too busy, the supermarket too easy… Let’s harvest and redistribute unwanted fruit, and go on foraging walks to learn about the abundance of edible plants around us.” Through their website they list different foraging walks and links to areas with trees in harvest, they also photograph bins of shame full of wasted produce. One picture shows a bin laden with alliums and asks if the owners will be buying onions from supermarkets this week?

Wasted alliums thrown away, photograph from the Urban Harvest blog

Through these different groups, communities are able to make a localised impact on their environment through easy initiatives. Also it’s a brilliant way to to harvest the seasonal glut of local fruit (apples, pears, plums, quinces, cherries…) The group Abundance harvests city fruit, distributing it, making jams & preserves, or selling the surplus to local restaurants and shops on a non-profit basis, ie. the money goes back into the project or to local charitable organisations. Surely there’s nothing better than spending an Autumnal afternoon foraging for berries to use for home-made jam? And you don’t even need to leave the city!

There are plenty of ways to get involved, here are our top picks:

  • Abundance London, Chiswick
  • Brockley Harvest, Brockley
  • Transition Belsize, Belsize Park