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Central Florida forager Deane Jordan invites you to a backyard buffet

Can you survive on the free food growing all around you?

Photo: Dave Plotkin, License: N/A

Dave Plotkin

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Still thinking about foraging outside beautiful Mead Garden, I ask about pollution. How can I tell if the plant is growing in a toxic puddle or has a layer of asbestos or lead dust covering it? Jordan has common-sense answers. Forage uphill, well away from the exhaust cloud that can form adjacent to roads. Forage on the west side of major interstates, because the prevailing winds carry pollution to the east bank. Don't eat anything watered by parking lot run-off. And perhaps this is the most obvious: Don't forage anywhere where there's a mysterious absence of weeds; it probably means that herbicides were used there.

When we sit down at a picnic table to recap, I ask why foraging isn't a regular way to make up at least part of our diets. “We moved from the farm. We're totally estranged from nature,” he says.

My stomach rumbles; I'm feeling less estranged from nature than I have in a long time. Orlando's mottled green canvas has come into clearer focus. I see food where once I saw annoying weeds. As I get up to go, I pocket a few of the leaves and seeds I've collected during my search for sustenance. When I get home, I rejoice at the positive identification of Spanish needles – the wily things are springing up all over my lawn.

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