UC Berkeley professors who advocate “urban foraging” – reclaiming edible plants that otherwise go to waste in backyards, parks, urban farms, and even on city sidewalks – have organized a Wild Food Week April 4-10, including a guided hike in the Berkeley hills and events at Bay Area restaurants.

The weeklong celebration of food that is sustainable, affordable, ubiquitous, and delicious – if unfamiliar to many Americans — is part of the Berkeley Open Source Food project in partnership with local organic farmers, produce suppliers, and restaurants on both sides of the San Francisco Bay, including Berkeley’s celebrated Chez Panisse.

“Many plants called ‘weeds’ are actually delicious, healthful foods that have been part of our diet for millennia. It’s time we reclaimed them,” said Dr. Philip Stark, chair of UC Berkeley’s statistics department, for whom urban foraging is a personal passion and a scientific pursuit.

“By some estimates, up to 40% of edible plants on farms are watered, fertilized, harvested, and then not eaten,” Prof. Stark added. “Edible plants in city environments, such as dandelion, chickweed, and oxalis are generally overlooked. A little information could improve nutrition for a lot of people, especially in those in underserved urban areas called ‘food deserts.’”

Stark and two other Berkeley faculty, Kristen Rasmussen (a nutritionist) and Tom Carlson (an ethnobotanist) have teamed up to restore these traditional, abundant, delicious, low-impact foods to our diets, to reduce waste, increase farm production, and improve public health.

“Too often, the word ‘weed’ is just a synonym for food waste,” Prof. Rasmussen said. “We’re wasting resources and straining an overstretched environment for no reason except in-built cultural prejudices we need to lose.”

The week will kick off with a three-mile guided walk on Saturday, April 4, from Codornices Park, near the UC Berkeley campus, up to Grizzly Peak Blvd and back again. The walk, led by Stark, Rasmussen, and Carlson, is designed to open participants’ eyes to the sheer wealth of edible plants under their noses.
Restaurateur Anthony Myint of Mission Chinese, Commonwealth, The Perennial, and Zero Foodprint, said today,”It’s really exciting to work with and learn about new, native, nutritious, and sustainable ingredients.