Urban Hiker SF has been around for a few months now, and since I started my company, I’ve become much more connected with the city. I now notice minute architectural details, hidden alleyways...and, for the first time in my life, plants.
had never been a plant person, but, one day as I walked around the city
with my father, a lifetime plant lover, he pointed out a nasturtium
plant and told me that it was edible. Now he had my attention: as a
foodie, I find plants infinitely more interesting when I also see them
as food. Now that I know what to look for, I see numerous edible plants
on a daily basis on my hikes. While the summer’s blackberries and plums
have disappeared until next spring, there are a number of other edible
plants around the Bay Area that you can enjoy year-round. Here’s a mini
field guide to help you on your urban foraging expeditions.
can identify nasturtiums by their jewel-toned yellow, orange, and red
flowers as well by their lilypad-shaped leaves. The flowers can be
enjoyed as a colorful and spicy salad topper, and you can also eat the
leaves. I’m intrigued by this nasturtium pesto recipe that makes use of both parts of the plant.
is easy to spot with its long stalk, feathery dill-like leaves, and
yellow flowers. You can also often smell the plant’s licorice scent
before you see it.
restaurants, you’re most often eating the fennel bulb, but on hiking
trails, it’s much easier to eat the flowers and seeds. These
above-ground parts of the plant have a lovely anise flavor and act as a
great natural breath freshener.
are multiple of varieties of lavender all over the city, but the ones I
most often see are English lavender hybrids (left) and Spanish
lavender (below left). An easy way to make sure you’re dealing with
lavender and not something like Mexican Bush Sage (below right), which
is not edible, is to give the plant a pinch and sniff your fingers. If
you smell the signature lavender smell, you’ve hit ‘purple gold’. Most people don’t eat lavender by itself, so inspired by the Bi-Rite honey lavender ice cream flavor, I’ve taken to making these honey lavender cookies.
you’re not seeing rosemary everywhere in the city, you may not be
looking hard enough. I’ve seen rosemary in almost every neighborhood,
and sometimes it can dominate entire walls and gardens. As with
lavender, there are many varieties of rosemary: it can be “creeping,” it
can grow as a bush, and it can feature blue, pink. or white flowers.
Since there are so many types of rosemary, do a sniff test before you
eat to make sure you’ve got the right plant. Lately, I’ve been using
rosemary to make these delicious biscuits.
you head out into the streets and woods, remember that foraging can
quickly become dangerous if you accidentally ingest the wrong plant. You
should be meticulous in your plant identification in order to stay
Once you know you’re indeed dealing with an edible plant, enjoy! The city is your salad, so get outside and start snacking.