By Irena Knezevic
Windsor, Ontario, is in that part of Canada that geographically hooks into the US, and is paradoxically located south of the border, just across the river from Detroit. It is sometimes jokingly referred to as “Detroit South.” The moniker is in fact utterly appropriate. Like Detroit, it is a blue-collar town full of immigrants (largely white, European, but more recently also Lebanese and then Somalian) many of whom came to the city to work in the automotive factories that form the backbone of Windsor’s economy. It is also a city that, like Detroit, has a rich arts and culture scene.
In the heart of that city, just three or four blocks from the Detroit River, is an alley. This is where my mom, who lives in a condo overlooking the river and Detroit’s captivating skyline, picks all her grape leaves for dolmatas. We come from Bosnia, and we love stuffing vegetables of all kinds—peppers, zucchini, cabbage, onion, grape leaves. My stepfather is Greek, so dolmatas are a staple food for him too. Dolmatas make sense in their household. But the two of them live a comfortable urban retiree life, and don’t need to pick their food from alleyways where it’s free. My mom’s neighbourhood harvest is not a product of necessity. Yet, the delight in her voice is palpable when I phone her and she tells me about her recent harvest of mulberries in that same alley. The alley also offers nettle, wild strawberries, and dandelion leaves. Not far from there, she picks amaranth leaves (also known as pigweed or callaloo), and a few blocks over, just by the railroad tracks, is where she gets her rosehips for jam and tea. Continue reading “Wild harvest as an urban practice”