Food

Wild foods

Natural, wild, uncultivated habitats are not only critical for biodiversity, ecological health and beauty, but also for food and nutrition. Traditional and indigenous cultures around the world have always had immense knowledge and respect for wild foods, and continue to rely upon them as important sources of sustenance. Wherever you live, there are likely to be wild edibles growing nearby, including many plants commonly denigrated as "weeds". As with local food generally, learning about and utilizing wild foods helps reconnect you to your local ecosystem, and makes you more aware of the threats it faces; it improves nutrition, and reduces dependence on global markets. Get into the weeds with the actions below! In this section, we also include resources for gleaning unused food from cultivated plants, and food gardens deliberately cultivated for public foraging.

Wild foods Actions
Harvest wild foods.
Expand Action
Harvest wild foods.

A rich diversity of wild or uncultivated foods can be found in our local environments, from urban areas to the backcountry. With sustainable harvesting practices and ethics, these foods can provide a dependable, perennial source of exceptional nutrition. Learning to identify, harvest and prepare wild foods provides not only nutritious sustenance, but opportunities for intergenerational and intercultural learning, preserving biological and cultural diversity, and deepening an ecological ethic of care and respect for the land.

Take action

Get inspired

  • The Deccan Development Society in Hyderabad, India helps introduce the public to neglected, highly nutritious and abundant wild foods through its Festival of Uncultivated Foods.
  • Fox Haven Farm in Maryland, US runs 10-month foraging education programs with a focus on ecosystem stewardship, within and alongside an herbal farm, ecological retreat, learning center, and wildlife sanctuary.
  • Linking Wild Foods, Biodiversity, and Forest-Based Livelihoods, an online conference held in 2021, offers stories and conference presentations from across South and Southeast Asia.
  • Forgotten Greens, based in India, connects people with wild plants growing near them through 11-day virtual group programs, as well as place-based plant walks, festivals, and workshops celebrating the plants that form the often invisible backdrop of our everyday lives.

Harvest wild foods.

A rich diversity of wild or uncultivated foods can be found in our local environments, from urban areas to the backcountry. With sustainable harvesting practices and ethics, these foods can provide a dependable, perennial source of exceptional nutrition. Learning to identify, harvest and prepare wild foods provides not only nutritious sustenance, but opportunities for intergenerational and intercultural learning, preserving biological and cultural diversity, and deepening an ecological ethic of care and respect for the land.

Take action

Get inspired

  • The Deccan Development Society in Hyderabad, India helps introduce the public to neglected, highly nutritious and abundant wild foods through its Festival of Uncultivated Foods.
  • Fox Haven Farm in Maryland, US runs 10-month foraging education programs with a focus on ecosystem stewardship, within and alongside an herbal farm, ecological retreat, learning center, and wildlife sanctuary.
  • Linking Wild Foods, Biodiversity, and Forest-Based Livelihoods, an online conference held in 2021, offers stories and conference presentations from across South and Southeast Asia.
  • Forgotten Greens, based in India, connects people with wild plants growing near them through 11-day virtual group programs, as well as place-based plant walks, festivals, and workshops celebrating the plants that form the often invisible backdrop of our everyday lives.
Get involved in gleaning.
Expand Action
Get involved in gleaning.

Gleaning refers to harvesting and gathering foods that would otherwise go to waste. From city fruit trees to leftover crops on farms, the amount of food that can be gleaned is huge, and many organizations and initiatives have emerged to collect this food for local consumption. In many cases, the gleaned food is donated to local anti-hunger programs. Not only does this tap into hitherto ignored local abundance, but it helps reduce dependence on the global industrial food system.

Take action

Get inspired

  • Volunteers with Not Far From the Tree in Toronto, Canada, pick fruit from private trees all around the city and share the harvest with owners and local food banks.
  • Food Forward in Los Angeles, US, collects fresh fruits and vegetables from backyard fruit trees, public orchards, and farmers markets, and delivers it to people in need.
  • Smarta Kartan in Gothenburg, Sweden, maps out the sharing economy of the city, including public fruit trees.
  • Fallen Fruit in Los Angeles, US is an urban fruit trail highlighting 150 edible trees in one neighborhood.
  • City Fruit in Seattle, US organizes Fruit for All pop-up farmstands across the city, as well as donations to food banks and meal programs, and cider press rentals.

Get involved in gleaning.

Gleaning refers to harvesting and gathering foods that would otherwise go to waste. From city fruit trees to leftover crops on farms, the amount of food that can be gleaned is huge, and many organizations and initiatives have emerged to collect this food for local consumption. In many cases, the gleaned food is donated to local anti-hunger programs. Not only does this tap into hitherto ignored local abundance, but it helps reduce dependence on the global industrial food system.

Take action

Get inspired

  • Volunteers with Not Far From the Tree in Toronto, Canada, pick fruit from private trees all around the city and share the harvest with owners and local food banks.
  • Food Forward in Los Angeles, US, collects fresh fruits and vegetables from backyard fruit trees, public orchards, and farmers markets, and delivers it to people in need.
  • Smarta Kartan in Gothenburg, Sweden, maps out the sharing economy of the city, including public fruit trees.
  • Fallen Fruit in Los Angeles, US is an urban fruit trail highlighting 150 edible trees in one neighborhood.
  • City Fruit in Seattle, US organizes Fruit for All pop-up farmstands across the city, as well as donations to food banks and meal programs, and cider press rentals.
Plant food to share.
Expand Action
Plant food to share.

Planting food crops to share uses the privilege of land access to benefit the wider community. Creating a common resource is an act of resistance against cultures of privatized land and commodified food, and an act of renewal of gift economies that support abundance for all.

Take action

  • Plant a fruit tree or garden plot with food that you intend to share with others, or make available for others to harvest.
  • Connect with the Food is Free Project, a worldwide movement of people growing and sharing food freely, and check out their guide on how to start a project of your own.
  • Register fruit trees on your land with a local gleaning organization.
  • Donate excess produce from your garden to a local food bank.
  • Start an inexpensive nursery to grow seedlings for your community with Lobelia Commons' Decentralized Nursery How-To Thread.

Get inspired

  • Lobelia Commons' Front Yard Orchard program in New Orleans, US provides free fruit trees for people to plant in publicly accessible parts of their yards.
  • Homegardens are privately-held agroforestry plots common in tropical communities worldwide. In Java, Indonesia, homegardens are often considered semi-public community land, with harvests shared throughout the village: see The Javanese Homegarden for more details.

Plant food to share.

Planting food crops to share uses the privilege of land access to benefit the wider community. Creating a common resource is an act of resistance against cultures of privatized land and commodified food, and an act of renewal of gift economies that support abundance for all.

Take action

  • Plant a fruit tree or garden plot with food that you intend to share with others, or make available for others to harvest.
  • Connect with the Food is Free Project, a worldwide movement of people growing and sharing food freely, and check out their guide on how to start a project of your own.
  • Register fruit trees on your land with a local gleaning organization.
  • Donate excess produce from your garden to a local food bank.
  • Start an inexpensive nursery to grow seedlings for your community with Lobelia Commons' Decentralized Nursery How-To Thread.

Get inspired

  • Lobelia Commons' Front Yard Orchard program in New Orleans, US provides free fruit trees for people to plant in publicly accessible parts of their yards.
  • Homegardens are privately-held agroforestry plots common in tropical communities worldwide. In Java, Indonesia, homegardens are often considered semi-public community land, with harvests shared throughout the village: see The Javanese Homegarden for more details.
Voices from the field

  • Wild Food Voices and Stories, a series of short films and speeches by Wild Foods Asia, offers a plethora of insights into the role that wild foods hold in nutrition, society, forest protection, and livelihoods of indigenous people throughout Southeast Asia.
  • Uncultivated Foods, part of a series on food, farming and farmers by the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture in India, features presentations by three scholars and activists working with Adivasi (indigenous) communities in India to protect, strengthen and revive their knowledge, access to and use of the huge diversity of nutritious forest foods.
  • Gather, a new feature-length film, is "an intimate portrait of the growing movement amongst Native Americans to reclaim their spiritual, political and cultural identities through food sovereignty, while battling the trauma of centuries of genocide."
Resources