The weather turned decidedly warmer as I drove south towards Greenville, SC. Once a small little backwater town, Greenville has seen a revival in the last couple of decades, with parks and trails popping up all over the place along with the growth of the downtown. I hopped on the Swamp Rabbit Greenway for a run the first morning which took me from the wooded backcountry to the heart of the revamped downtown, complete with narrow footbridge soaring over a pretty impressive waterfall on the Reedy River. I was unexpectedly rewarded afterwards when I noticed that a tree leaning crookedly over the van was a pecan tree, many of its tough pods laying all around. After a little work, I soon had a big bowl of fresh pecans for breakfast!
While gardening is one of the best and healthiest ways to cut down on your consumption of imported and pesticide-treated fruits, vegetables and other crops, another great practice is finding food that grows naturally in your area. Many places around the US have their own unique suite of naturally growing foods that are in such abundance when they are in season they can’t even all be picked! For example, a few years back while I was living in Seattle, WA and doing research for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, I passed an enormous swath of blackberry bushes growing on the side of a highway barrier wall every day on my way to work. From late June to early August I brought containers and picked as many as I could to and from work, sometimes getting as many as four or five pounds of blackberries in a single day; the same thing went for cherry trees, which were also abundant all around the city and suburbs. Florida boasts wild oranges and grapefruits for most of the year; Georgia and South Carolina have walnut and pecan trees. If you’re interested in seeing what might be around your area, I encourage you to check out fallingfruit.org, which can help you locate wild-growing and public fruits and vegetables to get you started with some urban foraging!
Later that afternoon I met two of my good friends from college, Bennet and Hannah, over at the Frazee center where they taught. The first-grade class was much younger than any group I had worked with, but what they lacked in attention they more than made up for in energy and enthusiasm! After teaching them a little bit about trees and the role they play in the environment (as much as seven- and eight-year-olds can appreciate, at least), we went out to plant some White Oaks around their campus. They promised to take very good care of them, and even took to naming a few of the seedlings with more recognizable scraggly branches. As a reward for their patience with a new visitor and a change in their schedule, a wild but friendly game of dodgeball broke out, the little guys dashing around and squealing in delight as the air became thick with flying rubber.
My next stop was in Woodstock, GA where I met a friend that helped me locate some good spots for fifty White Oak seedlings north of Atlanta. This area was also ripe with trails and parks, as I made my way along the Chattahoochee river on the Roswell Riverwalk Trail for a run. Unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of time to check out Georgia as much as I would have liked, as I was headed farther southwest to Birmingham to meet with the environmental science students at Hoover High School.
This week for your Green Footprint, try your hand at urban foraging and see what edible goodies are growing near you! Check out fallingfruit.org to get started!