Today, I’m taking a break from the discussion of my personal Squirrelmageddon in my garden to discuss what I consider to be a really cool subject. Urban and suburban gleaning is a great opportunity to use some of the abundance that is all around us. Far too often, this abundance goes to waste. Fruit trees, berry bushes, and many more plants that are present in people’s yards often produce much more food than the property owners can utilize, and some folks don’t even utilize these resources at all.
For those of us who are interested in creating greater resiliency in our lives and making use of the resources around us, gleaning and foraging in our urban and suburban areas presents an opportunity to use these available resources. There are a number of non-profit gleaning organizations like this one that are beginning to take advantage of all of this unused food, and are collecting and donating such resources to food pantries. Gleaning food in this manner supports the permaculture ethic of “Sharing the Surplus” and the permaculture principle of “Produce No Waste.”
Two caveats that I would like add to this discussion of gleaning: #1: We need to make sure that we have permission from any land owner when we glean on their property. #2: We also need to make sure that we know how to properly identify the foods or other plants that we are gleaning. While some fruits and plants may be obviously identifiable and are beneficial for human use and consumption (e.g., apples and raspberries), some will definitely hurt you if you don’t know how to identify what you are harvesting. I always recommend using common sense and not harvesting anything that you aren’t certain of. Also, please ensure that you aren’t harvesting any endangered plants.