Foraging in San Francisco (and Anywhere!)

Summer makes me super nostalgic. I start remembering things like picking blackberries with my cousins by the side of the dirt road leading to my grandma’s house in the Santa Cruz mountains and start wanting to go to the beach. This summer I gave in to my nostalgia more than I usually do and started looking up places to pick blackberries in San Francisco. Which, to someone who has not lived in San Francisco, might seem like a pointless question to ask – why would there be blackberries, or any kind of wild produce, anywhere in the city?

It’s true that the kind of foraging that is easier in more suburban and rural areas is a little bit harder in San Francisco. We don’t have nearly as many “wild” areas that are more natural than man-made. A quick stroll through some of the more wooded areas of Golden Gate Park, though, and it’s clear that San Francisco has all kinds of produce growing wild. The hardest part is knowing exactly where to look for what you want.

This is where sites like come in. Falling Fruit is a crowd-sourced project where people can post the locations of foods that they have found growing wild and share them with the rest of the world. (They also have an app for both iPhones and Androids! I’m not sure how much it is on the Android, but it’s $3.99 in the App Store.) And people have posted nearly two thousand different kinds of foods – mostly edible plants, but also things like crawdads and abalone – and their locations all over the world.

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(Most of) San Francisco on the Falling Fruit map

This is a super useful tool for novice foragers like me, especially ones who live in urban areas and don’t really know where to start. I now know that there are three specific locations where I can find blackberries within San Francisco’s city limits just based on a really easy search, and I know that if I ever find wild produce elsewhere, I can post the location to Falling Fruit so that others are easily able to locate it. Gotta pay it forward.

In my research, I also found another really neat site that I’m hoping to make some use of in the future:

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The homepage

This site seems to be a bit more in its infancy (my editor-self had to give it a chance despite some typos throughout the site), but is still a really useful tool if you’re interested in trying to find food (often free, very cheap, or up for barter) grown by your neighbors. I’m about to post some pineapple sage that we have growing in our plot that produces way more than we could ever consume ourselves. I’m hoping to eventually put up some tomatoes this summer, and maybe other produce in future years. The thing I’m most excited about is the one beekeeper in the city who has put her hive’s products up for barter. I’m crossing fingers that I can get some local beeswax from her in exchange for some of the beeswax-based perfumes and bath products I’ve made.

Beer Trap: The Latest Weapon in the Snail War

Finally got back to the garden after a week of heavy rain. We just planted some new plant babies recently (dragon carrots, tomatoes, a few different kinds of lettuces, and kale) and I was really excited to see how they were doing. More specifically, I was excited to see whether the beer trap we’d set before the rain started had worked and actually captured some slugs.

It did.

And it was freakin gross.

If you’ve never heard of a beer trap but are curious about how they work, I’d recommend looking here (x). It’s a WikiHow article, but it’s pretty informative. Basically, you stick a shallow, smooth container filled with cheap beer into a snail- and slug-infested garden. The slimeballs can’t resist the scent of the yeast and crawl into the container and drown themselves in cheap, yeasty alcohol.

I’ll spare you photos (I couldn’t bring myself to take any to be honest), but it was… nasty. But! The beer trap worked! Some plant babies still got nommed on, but as far as I could tell that was caterpillars or other pests rather than the snails we usually deal with. I’m going to have to research other forms of pest control since we do our best to keep our garden organic and free of pesticides and other contaminants. I’m happy with the trap for the moment. I’m still trying out other natural alternatives to pesticides, like spreading crushed eggshells all over the surface of the garden (snails hate that) or lining the edge of the raised bed with copper, but since the beer trap is a pretty cheap, simple solution, I’m not about to try and fix what isn’t broken.