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Urban Foraging: Looking for Herbs on the Wild Side

Food & Drink, Gardening, Parks & the Great Outdoors 1 Comment »

Illustration: Elena Rodina

By Elena Rodina

We sit cross-legged on the trail in Douglas Park. Across the road is Mount Sinai hospital with its famous trauma center, where people are often treated for gunshot wounds that they receive in this very neighborhood. Somewhere nearby a car stereo is cranked up to the top level, playing angry rap. Meanwhile, Nance Klehm takes a patch of dry mugwort from a black plastic bag that she carries with her, carefully places it on the cracked asphalt surface, and sets the herb on fire. While the dry plant burns and smolders, emanating a bitter-sweet aroma, Klehm explains that we are making an offering to the land, a ritual traditionally done by herbalists before they start picking plants. Once the fire dies down, she reaches into her black bag one more time and takes out a pair of ordinary red gardening scissors. We are ready to start our foraging trip in the heart of Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Grow Thyself: Meditating on the thrills of the urban gardener

Gardening, Memoirs & Miscellany, Road Trips No Comments »

By Dennis Rodkin

It was a gorgeous late-summer weekend, and the new people in the house next door to ours were busy schlepping boxes inside from their back porch. They looked hot and tired, so my wife and I decided to make them feel welcome by offering them some of our tomatoes. The weather had been great for tomatoes, and we plant them in super-fertile compost, so we had way more tomatoes than we could eat. How nice of us—how downright neighborly—to think of the new neighbors.

It was either that or eat tomatoes on our sandwiches, tomatoes on our delivery pizza, and tomatoes on our Wheaties for another week. Read the rest of this entry »