In Week 10, a guide to wild foraging in Jordan’s urban settings was one of the ideas I briefly researched and listed as a viable project concept. Foraging is not a new activity in the Levantine region, and most certainly nothing novel around the world. Wild food plants or wild edible plants have always been an important part of the human diet. They have provided the backbone of human survival for millennia before agricultural cultivation. They have continued to be important even with the advent of agricultural cultivation when people began to train wild plants to produce food on a human schedule rather than a schedule bound to the microclimates of their locale. (Research Collective: Omar Tesdell (editor), 2018)
With the effects of climate change ever looming over our heads, looking for a sustainable alternative to food sources is crucial. One such alternative is foraging for wild edibles. However, there are a lot of setbacks when not done properly, namely the endangerment of certain plant species, or succumbing to a poisonous variety of plants.
Berkeley Open Source Food has introduced policy briefs for legislators on how sustainable foraging might supplement governmental assistance. A 2017 brief advocated for the government to open public lands to foraging and provide training to help residents of low-food-access areas or “food deserts” identify and harvest plants correctly. (Pines, 2019)
In recent years, foraging has seen a resurgence of popularity across much of the world: for some, it’s a leisurely weekend activity, a way of being close to nature, and for others, a means of survival—a safety net in precarious times. (Manna, 2020) For the Levantine region, it’s been a source of sustenance for generations. In Palestine, between the months of February and May, the following plants can be picked: khubeizeh (mallow), shomar (fennel), za’tar (thyme), ‘elt or hindbeh (dandelion), hummeid (bitter dock), loof (black calla), wara’ zquqiah or tutu (ivy-leaved cyclamen), halayoon (wild asparagus), and the much-celebrated ‘akkoub (gundelia).
It is indeed possible to live off of these wild leaves and vegetables in the springtime and only go to the grocer for a bag of onions, salt, olive oil, and perhaps some grains. (Manna, 2020) In Jordan, around 52 varieties of wild edible plants are widely distributed throughout the country and consumed in various ways. (Tukan, Takruri and al-Eisawi, 1998)
At the end of 2020, platform partnered with TAYYŪN, two Amman-based research studios, to host foraging meet-ups. Dubbed “The Wild Edible City”, the meet-ups were part of a project that combined research, urban foraging, nature education, creative conservation, and culinary art.
Baraka Destinations, a sustainable tours company, similarly started to offer foraging tours around Ajloun, a city in the North of Jordan. Titled “Philodemus”, the tours are conducted through a series of hikes through hills and fields in search of arkoub, loof, almonds, olives, and more.
Building on the idea of the previous two case studies, it made sense to start a club of some sort for those interested in participating. So here is my brief outline of the project concept, which I’ve named Talqeet, the Arabic word for “Picking”, or in this case, the action most commonly used in foraging.
Talqeet – A Jordanian Foraging Club
A wild edibles foraging club in Jordan that operates on a subscription basis and provides members with educational resources, recipes, and other goodies to inspire and encourage participation in a community setting.
Members will learn to forage safely and respectfully in an attempt to revive this beloved cultural practice and promote the regeneration of precious wild plants.
To break down why this concept might word, I explored who my audience might be and carried out a SWOT analysis to determine how the club would operate, what it would offer, and who it could partner with:
We know from already existing projects, but also from the stories of our mothers, grandmothers, and matriarchal relatives that foraging for wild edibles is an important part of our culture. Here is a sample list of who might be interested in joining:
- Culinary enthusiasts
- Nature lovers
- There is an already existing interest in the activity.
- It is a sustainable food source.
- It teaches vital survival skills.
- It can help regenerate certain plants and maintain a healthy ecosystem.(when done responsibly).
- It helps preserve the cultural food heritage of the region.
- It may be perceived as the gentrification of a cultural pastime.
- Information needs to be easily updated, so printing guides is not an option.
- There are existing guides that can be accessed for free (although they are not comprehensive or engaging enough).
- Affordability is a huge contributing factor to the participation of communities.
- Strong competition from other platforms or organizations that have the same idea.
- Legislation changes that could prohibit any foraging activities.
- Littering and pollution could affect the safety of consuming wild edibles.
- The information gathered from the club can potentially be published as a comprehensive guide on foraging in the country.
- Collaboration with city municipalities will increase the visibility of the project and garner wider public support.
- Partnership with the culinary art school to develop new ideas and recipes.
The SWOT analysis provided a helpful guide on the offerings of this club to make it attractive enough to join.
First, it’s important to find a fitting online platform to house the club. The decision to keep it online is not only to cut costs, but also to keep the content exclusive to members, easy to update, and easy to access. It also helps build and strengthen a community bond between foraging enthusiasts.
Utilizing a platform like Patreon would be ideal in a situation where membership fees are involved. The community tools include features like voice & text chat and a forum through its partners.
- A well-researched and up-to-date guide on the different plants that can be foraged.
- Safety precautions for each plant, and how to avoid similarly-looking, poisonous plants.
- Environmental instructions to protect plant species from over-consumption.
- A community recipe foundry
Meet-ups & Goodies
- Physical badges sent to members for their accomplishments
- Organized foraging tours lead by experts
Talqeet will be partnering with TAYYŪN for their expertise and guidance in wild edible foraging.
TAYYŪN is a Amman-based research studio exploring the intersections of urbanism, deep ecology, and ethics of placemaking.
Talqeet will also be partnering with Rawan Baybars as a community leader for the club.
Rawan is a visual blogger based in Amman. Through her Instagram, she shares with us her passion for the beauty in the every-day,.
I’ve condensed the outline above into an easy-to-digest one-page report that can be read here:
Manna, J. (2020). Where Nature Ends and Settlements Begin. [online] http://www.e-flux.com. Available at: https://www.e-flux.com/journal/113/360006/where-nature-ends-and-settlements-begin/ [Accessed 17 Aug. 2021].
Pines, G. (2019). Open Your Eyes: A Sustainable Guide to Foraging. [online] FoodPrint. Available at: https://foodprint.org/blog/sustainable-foraging/#:~:text=Sustainable%20Foraging%20Starts%20with%20Learning&text=Eating%20wild%20is%20a%20reliable [Accessed 17 Aug. 2021].
Research Collective: Omar Tesdell (editor), A.O. (2018). Palestinian Wild Food Plants / النباتات البرية الغذائية الفلسطينية. [online] Internet Archive. Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre. Available at: https://archive.org/details/palwildfoodplants2018/page/n61/mode/2up [Accessed 17 Aug. 2021].
Tukan, S.K., Takruri, H.R. and al-Eisawi, D.M. (1998). The use of wild edible plants in the Jordanian diet. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, [online] 49(3), pp.225–235. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10616665/ [Accessed 17 Aug. 2021].