‘No Herb Is Safe:’ Portland’s Urban Gardeners Say Chefs Won’t Stop Stealing Their Crops

This is not an episode of "Portlandia."

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Matthew Leete

The thread started with a simple, if bizarre, question: How do you keep local sous chefs from harvesting urban edibles on your property? The frustrated query came from a resident in Portland, Ore., a foodie mecca that’s generally proud of its alternative, steampunky ways. Posted on Reddit earlier this week, the plea for advice generated hundreds of comments, and a local news outlet soon uncovered another tale of herbal thievery.

The poster, identified as oregone1, detailed travails of trying to combat what appear to be ninja-like restaurant employees:

I have tried posting signs, yet they still seem to find a way into my yard to harvest everything from nettles and catmint to borage and grape leaves. I even built a six-foot tall fence, but they are still managing to get in.
I have called the offending restaurants to ask them to tell their sous chefs to stop trespassing, but so far they seem undeterred. I have also offered to let them onto my property with my supervision, but they mostly seem to come out while I’m at work so everything can be prepped for their dinner service.
It was fine when they were just harvesting pineapple weed and mallow from the alley and the parking strip …

Reddit users responded with jokes about baiting traps with San Pellegrino, offers to supervise the yard for payment and suggestions that the resident move to Texas. Posters also questioned how, exactly, the poster identified sous chefs as the culprits given that the thefts appeared to occur when no one was home. Only in a place like Portland would that demographic group be filed under “usual suspects.”

On Monday, local ABC affiliate KATU News reported that an apartment manager in Portland said the he couldn’t keep restaurant workers from climbing his fence and stealing wild plants from his property. He too pointed fingers at the sous chefs. “In some neighborhoods there’s coyotes, some have skunks – here, it’s just sous-chefs and all the things that come with that,” he said. In a story that seems too hilarious to be true, he told reporters that he has found beard nets and recipes that have led him to suspect the second-in-command chefs are responsible.

Regardless of the offending foragers’ identities, it appears that living in a place of culinary experimentation and delight has its drawbacks. Also, if someone doesn’t name their new indie band Pineapple Weed from the Parking Strip, it’ll be a big missed opportunity.

[Portland Food & Drink]