Ava Chin is an urban forager, and she'd like to set the record straight on what, exactly, that really means. "People think I'm a freegan who either dumpster-dives or eats roadkill," she says as we walk through Prospect Park on my first-ever foraging expedition. "So I have to tell them, no, foraging for me is searching for the edible plants and the mushrooms that are growing in abundance all around us, even in the middle of New York City."
While it might be hard to imagine eating greens or mushrooms grown in the city's parks, the art of urban foraging has become increasingly popular in New York, where chefs like Daniel Boulud and Mads Refslund use foraged items on their menus. Chin, however, has been doing it for years now.
The Queens native first turned to foraging as a way to cope with a difficult time in her life. Her grandmother was dying, and she had ended a relationship with a man she thought she was going to marry. She took walks around her neighborhood, looking at the world as a place of "abundance and beauty." Along the way, Chin rediscovered herself, and she found a new passion — one that eventually became a column for The New York Times, and more recently, a memoir: Eating Wildly: Foraging For Life, Love, and The Perfect Meal.