Innovators look to “accidental crops” as a nutritious, environmentally friendly and free food source

Innovators look to “accidental crops” as a nutritious, environmentally friendly and free food source

Edible weeds
Yarrow is one of the diverse edible weeds growing wild

Philip Stark was on a long run in the hills above Berkeley, California, when he started thinking differently about the wild green plants around him. “I knew some that were edible,” says Stark, a statistics professor at the University of California, Berkeley. With research interests in nutrition and health, he wanted to learn more about these edible plants and find out which ones could be foraged for food. “Once your brain starts to notice the environment that way — once plants are not just an undifferentiated sea of green — you see the plants everywhere.”

Edible wild greens are consumed globally, particularly during food shortages, and many are used medicinally in teas, poultices and supplements, Stark learned. But he found little about their nutritional qualities. Living in the San Francisco area, he started wondering if plants growing wild in cities — not just on the trails he ran and other less urban environments — were safe to eat. If some of them were, and if they were nutritious and free from pollutants, he wondered if foraging could potentially help combat food insecurity in cities, boost public health, and — because he lived in earthquake country — boost communities’ disaster resilience.

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Published by Ensia.

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