I want to start foraging. I'm think I'll start with dandelions. They're everywhere, they're highly nutritious, and I feel very safe knowing the difference between them and something else not so non-toxic. My question is where? I don't have any yard with them. How do I know what lawns are safe to take from? I mean, the fertilizers/pesticides that could potentially be on lawns are potentially far worse than the ones that would be on conventional produce since they don't have to convince anybody that they would be safe to eat, right? Is there any way I could know where might be safe to forage from in a city? Also, it's legal, right? I mean, nobody's going to mind if walk into a public park and pull up a handful of weeds, right?
Not sure about your area - but I've seen some foraging-type groups in our city's local harvest (mainly for unattended fruit trees and bushes, but people also mention dandelions and other similar plants). That might be a good resource for areas that are abundant, watched, and known not to use pesticides. If you don't find info through that, try starting up something of that nature yourself. Craigslist/local harvest would both be good places to start. I'm sure you'd get takers for 'hey, let me pull up your un-sprayed dandelions'.
Any kind of park service might also be a resource for information or know about interest and safety of local foraging.
I would never overestimate the generosity of city officials. They might not want to assume liability for your safety, foraging in public places. That's a pretty paranoid scenario, but I've been on the receiving end of hyperactive authority figures many, many times. Not with foraging, though. But be prepared with the city laws regarding foraging, if any. Anyhow, that's worst-case-scenario.
Though it's hard to tell in the spring, when you are collecting, whether someplace has been sprayed the previous year, if you are seeing dandelions you can be assured that they haven't sprayed this year, so far at least. If they are tall and beefy, they probably have had a pretty good life away from the struggles of regrowing after repeated herbicide applications. No, if I saw healthy dandelions I would be wary about fertilizer runoff from adjacent lawns, urine, and spit. If people or animals have walked there, there can be feces in piles or tracked on the bottoms of shoes.
Avoid gathering from near ballfields and playgrounds. In more natural areas, you might be able to see if any paths have been forged around the area. Directly under trees can collect feces from birds and raccoons and possums. But look. Hillsides. Look at the health of the plants, the diversity of the plant life in the lawns. That's a good sign of no herbicide activity. But again, that's the easy one to spot, usually.
Entrenched urban foragers might or might not want to share their favorite spots. For dandelions, though, I would think you'd get some good help.
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you may want to think about lead in urban areas- I had posted this in Health (and it just played the other day) but they do talk about leafy green plants and those that absorb more lead than other (in urban areas)- http://whyy.org/cms/radiotimes/2012/05/02/leads-toxic-legacy-in-our-soil/
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