Won’t you join our urban foraging cult? Think about it!

Rome isn’t exactly known as an economical place these days and the crisis has only added insult to injury. Dining out and shopping for ingredients may be costly, but there is plenty of readily available free food all over town. Not only are there arugula, mallow, and prickly pears out there, but there are thousands of olive trees bursting with fruit, ripe for the taking. Some are easier to reach than others and last weekend Parla Food contributor chef John Regefalk and I hit the Celio to harvest trees just steps from the Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus.

We focused our efforts on an easy to reach public area just beside the Church of San Gregorio. Even though the adjacent Palatine Hill is absolutely packed with olive trees, admission to the site is €12 per person and this was meant to be an exercise in frugality. So we went for the free (and likely more smog-caked) variety. The plumper olives were near the tops of the trees and reaching them required some climbing.

In about an hour we harvested just over 6 kg (13 lb) of olives. John is testing out a few different curing methods and will publish a guest post on his progress in the near future. If all goes according the plan, we will not be poisoned by our experiment…the fruit’s epicuticular wax showed signs of pollution. Here it is on our hands!

If you want to try out an urban olive harvest yourself, you may want to avoid trees near busy roads. It is probably illegal to harvest fruit from trees on public land, but trust us the vigili are not watching.