Eating Wildly lecture tells of foraging


Jonathan North/Iowa State Daily

Ava Chin, author of “Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal,” spoke at the Memorial Union on Monday night. Chin read an excerpt from her book, and spoke on her research regarding edible wild plants. The lecture covered everything from how to tell if a plant is edible to her childhood experiences with wild food.

Kyndal Reimer

Foraging causes some people to jump to images of nomadic people scouring for greens, while others think of dumpster divers or backwoods country folk. To Ava Chin, foraging for food in New York has become a way of life.

Chin, author of the book “Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal,” gave a lecture on April 6 in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union. She is also an associate professor of creative nonfiction and journalism at the City University of New York and is the former “urban foyager” writer for the New York Times.

Chin covered her history of foraging and the events in her life that led her to this unique lifestyle. She also shared facts and led the audience on a virtual foraging tour of some of her favorite plants growing in the Ames area.

Chin grew up in Queens, N.Y. with her single mother and Chinese grandparents. She owes most of her knowledge and passion for foraging to her grandfather, who owned his own restaurant when Chin was a child. She spoke fondly of the earth-grown, homemade meals her grandfather used to cook for her.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the things growing around me.” Chin said. “When I was little, I was always getting in trouble for picking and tasting plants. The world we live in is a storehouse of rich goodies.”

Chin said many of the things foragers hunt and love to eat are the weeds that gardeners hate.

“We foragers often say to ourselves, ‘why weed something out when you can make a pesto out of it?’” Chin said.

She also discussed how the slow nature of the foraging lifestyle works as an antidote to today’s fast paced and technology driven world.

Chin said the best way to learn about foraging is to go on foraging tours and follow an expert to learn about plants around them. Foraging tours are a learning experience for both parties in the sense that they can bounce ideas and discoveries off of one another.

“Foraging hasn’t been making a huge communal or environment impact, but I hope to see it really take off in the near future,” Chin said.

Eating Wildly was named one of the Library Journal’s Best Books of 2014 and was also a Goodreads Choice Award 2014 semifinalist.