"Last night, KTVU aired a segment on its evening news about people illegally foraging for wild plants in Golden Gate Park.
"It’s no secret that foraging has been a growing trend in the culinary world over the past several years, especially amongst upscale restaurants seeking out exclusive and indigenous ingredients like nasturtiums, herbs, flowers, sea beans and miner’s lettuce in the Bay Area’s myriad picturesque parks and beaches.
"So which restaurant had its chefs busted in Golden Gate Park at the end of a massively important investigation? Coi? Rich Table? Bar Tartine? Saison? … Surely it was Saison, right?
"Actually, it was some old ladies. Four of them. KTVU bravely reports:
“KTVU on Tuesday spoke to a man who’s lived across the street from the park for 11 years. He declined to be identified but told us he confronted four elderly women about a month ago on a hillside next to the Recreation and Parks Department headquarters. He said the women were methodically pulling out wild ginger plants and loading them into kitchen garbage bags.”
"Please do note how, in the video above, our heroic citizen whistleblower who prompted the four old ladies to ‘slowly’ walk away needed a voice modification for fear of a loss of anonymity."
I told my lady friend that I’d bet they were Asian (or maybe Russian) grannies. In the video, the reporter talks about how patrols might be sent out to catch foragers. “That’s the report I want to see,” she said. “The police arresting a bunch of ajummas for picking plants.”
But seriously, I know there are significant civic, ecological, economic and medical concerns related to this issue. I’ve seen, for example, colonies of ramps decimated at a Chicago nature preserve because Korean grannies would gather up far too many to cook and to sell at a nearby market (where they quickly wilted and went unsold). I’ve been taught quite a bit about foraging and shared that knowledge with others, but sometimes I’ve been disturbed to see people’s acquisitiveness and inattentive trampling damage park landscapes and natural areas. As much as I believe that the Earth’s plant lifeforms are here for us to learn from and to sustain ourselves on, if a sizable fraction of an urban population regularly gathered food from parks, riverbanks and such, the effects would be devastating for plants, people and wildlife.
So how to strike a balance?