In this article I will take you with me on a tour to some of Berlin´s best parks, abandoned areas, the Grunewald forest, the Havel riverbank, as well as areas just outside Berlin, areas in which I have foraged intensively for the first month I have stayed here in Berlin, and found numerous wild food goods, such as wild carrots, blackberries, yarrow, mugwort, walnut, apples, pears, plums, flat peas, sea buckthorn, greater burdock, arugula, mallow, chickory and orange, red and black rose hips and dog rose leaves.

Did you know that you can find actual wild carrot roots basically everywhere in Berlin? Yes, carrot roots you can dig up and eat! Or that you can find actual wild peas, such as the flat pea, complete with stems, stalks, leaves, flowers and pods containing some five to ten peas tasting just like the ones you buy? Isn´t it amazing? Even more amazing is it that various wild foods both look and taste differently and have different textures than the cultivated foods, thus opening up a world of brand new food experiences for the one who is willing to actually have fun foraging before eating instead of simply adding the run-of-the-mill grocery store trip to your daily humdrum each second or third day of the week. Being a climate friendly eater is exactly a hundredfold more fun than buying the same old bananas, tomatoes and lettuce.

The article has a twist, no two, though, since the plants are not alone in their habitats. Right away, I promise you beautiful lakeshores alongside bare skin, as well as snorting and grunting in the forest!

First, I will take you into the wild food chamber largely unknown to the majority of Berliners and visitors passing them constantly every single day. The following delicious foods are some of those that can be found as good as any place that has a small area of uncultivated soil, in Berlin, but also much more widely. In principle, it doesn´t have to be further away from your home than the roadside ditch or the patch between road lanes, though, of course, you will get foods of much better quality further from the congested streets: mugwort, yarrow, rose hip, dandelion, rowan berries, wild carrot and arugula can all be found abundantly within Berlin in parks and areas left undeveloped.

City Parks and Undeveloped Areas

Berlin is full of parks of various kinds, from the Botanical Garden known to be extraordinarily diverse, to parks that host only few species, such as the poisonous spruce-like yew tree, to those that sport several wild species. Mauer Park and Das Nasse Dreieck are nice places for foraging. For instance, during this summer, I have found horse radish, rosehip, chickory, greater burdock, purple deadnettle, in addition to omnipresent species such as oak, (acorns), mugwort and yarrow in Mauer Park. The wasteland Das Nasse Dreieck is an excellent spot in which to find wild carrots and blackberries, the latter which succumbed in early August under the heatwave reaching 38 degrees celsius. It is also one of the few places in which I have found sea buckthorn. It also hosts hops and a few flat peas. Of course you can also find mugwort and yarrow here. 

Grunewald: The Land of the Wild Cocks

For a while I camped in Grunewald at about the spot closest to the city. It very much seemed like an accommodation upgrade compared to my two-day stay in Humboldthain, where a park attendant had told me on the second morning, in polite German phrases of which I understood only the basic meaning: I could not stay there. And where i felt compelled to take the tent and everything with me during my daily activities because of the risk of theft, vandalism or confiscation by park attendants or the police. 

The move into Grunewald caused a series of unexpected experiences: I had found a nice spot in a forest clearing surrounded by spruce trees and some berry bushes. It was in the evening. I saw some six guys with their bikes. They soon left and I then had the place to myself. I set up the tent in the clearing. Waking up the next morning, a man seemed to be on a solo picnic, with a cooler, a thermos and a folding chair in which he sat wearing nothing but probably some shorts which could not be seen because of his position in the chair. He sat at some distance from me, and I actually don´t think we even greeted each other. I started considering the site not so secluded as I had hoped for, and packed my tent and belongings and secured them on the bike. As I got on the bike the man finally greeted and I greeted him back, then took the bike some ten meters from the clearing into the forest and set up the tent again on a patch of land enveloped in bushes and trees, undetectable just few meters away from it.

Coming back to the clearing in the evening the same day, a guy came walking out from between the trees. As we were the only ones there and quite close to each other, it would have been strange to not start talking. The obvious question with which we initiated our talk was the question of what we each were doing there. I, obvious to you, were there to forage and had my mind completely set on the foraging practice and wild plant information, and he said something that in my mind sounded like “I am looking for sax”. I came to think of the Danish word for yew, taks, a word with a similar pronounciation, and thought he was probably talking about some wild plant. “Excuse me, what are you doing?” “I am looking for sex?” The third time my question was more of an exclamation: “What? Really?” The guy then quickly ended the conversation. 

Probably because I got up later the coming days I got to witness the true significance of this place: I looked around the clearing and saw only men, four of them. One lying near me on a blanket with his thermos, the others lying or walking around in the clearing or at the forest edge, all of them by themselves, and all of them, save one, dressed exactly like, let´s say, newborns or the average person while taking a shower. Fully clothed, including even my bicycle helmet, you might imagine some feeling of awkwardness.

Being fairly open-minded, I didn´t feel awkward enough to move to another place. I was tired of moving around, and was conscious of the difficulty of finding a spot in or around a 3.7 mill. metropolis which would be both nice, secluded and close to the city center. At any spot you might find, you must make a compromise on at least one of these parameters, I think. When i woke up the third morning in the bush right next to this gay hook-up forest clearing, stuck my head of my tent and saw two guys wearing nothing or at least next to nothing, pressumably looking for a good trunk to lean against, I finally figured it was time to find another place for my tent.

Havel: The Land of Idyllic lakeshores scattered with Mint – and of Snorting and Grunting

I wanted to find a place where I could take free outdoor baths, so I consulted my map of Berlin. The river Havel snakes its way from the Mecklenburg Lake District southwards and meets the western edge of Berlin, where it touches four of Berlin´s twelve boroughs and forms several lakes, and runs directly through the borough of Berlin Spandau where it also joins its main tributary, the Spree river, that crosses Berlin west to east. 

l really looked forward to these baths in one of the river´s lakes. And dipping myself in the water was really nice. I even found some mint growing along the shore. In other words, the atmosphere of the place is truly idyllic.

And, for practical reasons – mainly the absence of the worries whether I could leave my not highly valuable belongings, such as all my clothes, at the tent – the place was perfect. Despite a proximity of just some 20m from the nearest path and some 150m from the nearest street – a dead end connected to one of the major roads going to and from Berlin Mitte, the bourough at the very center of Berlin – the place was relatively secluded. People tended to stay on the nearby paths, not straying to walk by the tent, and few, if any, ever saw me, nor probably the tent.

One evening at around 10pm, coming back to the tent from my daily commute to the city, some sound interrupted me while inflating my air mattress with a foot pump. The sound was sufficiently frightening to make me decide the half-inflated mattress had had enough air by now and jump into the tent. What I heard was some violent snorting. As if some tough badass guy was trying to seem intimidating by blowing all air out of his nostrils as powerfully as possible. The snorting was soon accompanied by a grunting sound, the two sounds alternating with long intermissions in between. After a while there was no mistaking the introduction of a third theme: twigs breaking due to footsteps, at a volume which indicated an animal at about the weight level of a human. With the introduction of the breaking twigs, the nightly forest music had become a fugue with complete with the contrapuntal grunting, the complementary snorting and the breaking twigs ornamental runs: the accentuated puuuuuuhhhh – then just as slowly the gruuuunt, and the interweawing, slightly more staccatoed snap, snap, snap, snap, SNAP, SNAP, PUUUUUHHHH… playing louder and louder, as beautiful a fugue as can be played by a wild boar, that has never seen an organ, nor studied classical music or directed a church choir. The sounds were now so loud, it was definitely in the immediate vicinity of the tent, and I had no intention of ending my days like Robert Baratheon, King of Westeros in the Game of thrones universe: gored by a wild boar. Having heard that it has actually killed someone here in real-life Germany, I grabbed my kitchen knife and sat ready for a possible attack on the tent.

No attack happened. And the next evening, when I returned almost as laid-back as the previous one, there was no snorting nor grunting to be heard. I stayed on the same spot for about ten days, and the boar came back about each second night, most of the time accompanied by several others, who, however, only made the breaking twigs sounds, as the alpha male did all the snorting and grunting. It seemed to me, they had a nightly moonlight strolling routine, or something like that, at around 23 – 1pm. And the probing around my tent therefore always started, when I felt sufficiently safe inside the tent; a phenomenon I felt sure they neither understand nor feel threatened by, as long as it stays silent.

This evening, though, I came back to the tent early, and very soon heard the grunting. It seemed more loud and angry this time, and I jumped inside the tent, as I listened to what sounded to me like an angry wild boar, telling whatever animal had been trespassing on its territory to get the %#¤” outta here. I obeyed: Packed my three bags the following morning, tightened the heavy, immense load to my bike and took off in search for new outdoor accommodation. Perhaps the Spree river: a nice outdoor bathing spot in the very center of the city?