Q and A with Marta Hanson, the Baltimore Urban Forager

Carrie Murphy

Have you ever foraged for food? I've recently become interested in the practice, helped along by Marta Hanson's great Baltimore Brew column, the Baltimore Urban Forager. In a city often known more for The Wire than for its green areas, it's really interesting to think about Baltimore as a place to actually find food growing in the wild, rather than a maze of rowhouses and grocery stores. Martha's columns about finding edible plants in the landscape around us have really inspired me, so in order to learn more about her and her practice, I asked her a few questions. Read on; we think you'll be surprised to find out you might just be eating foraged food at a handful of Baltimore-area restaurants!


How did you start foraging?

Basically, I started within my family. Picking wild blueberries in northern Minnesota with my grandmothers, great aunts, mother, and cousins. Hiking with my father who would point out the wintergreen when it was in season and introduced me to how refreshing the leaves are to chew. My father also harvested mulberries and made home-made wine from them; my mother foraged for crabapples for some recipes. I'll never forget filling tupperware full of blueberries in the huge parking lot at the Roosevelt summer house in northern Maine one summer in the rain under umbrellas. My aunt Sandy also made the most creative preserves and pickled vegetables from her garden in northern Wisconsin.


What are your favorite neighborhoods to forage in and around Baltimore?

I live in Hampden and Roland Park neighborhoods and teach at Hopkins, so I forage along Wyman park, Stoney Run, and on campus mostly.  I also keep an eye out for fruit producing trees along the avenues in Charles village, especially crabapple trees.


What kinds of plants are most common in this area? Anything you see pretty commonly? Are they plants we might recognize but not recognize
as edible? 

Cornelian cherries, Persimmon, Quince, Beechnut, Dock, Crabapples, Pockweed and a few other things are all available on Hopkins' campus, so that's a good representation of what you can find in the area. 


Do you know of any restaurants that use foraged food?

I think Dogwood Cafe and Woodberry Kitchen does, possibly also the Corner restaurant in Hampden. I plan to interview the chefs about it. 


Any tips for someone who'd like to get started on foraging? 

Read my blogs! And other blogs like Ana Chin's New York Times blog about foraging in Brooklyn. Also, you should get a good edible plants guidebook that clearly informs the reader with photos what is inedible and what parts of an edible plant are edible.


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