To urban Texans, foraging may sound like an ancient, lost art or a complicated excursion, but it could be as simple as picking a backyard weed and eating it raw.

James Beard Award winner Alexis Nikole Nelson goes by BlackForager on social media, seeking out wild, edible plants, sharing recipes, and shouting into the camera. Her usual send-off: “Happy snacking, don’t die!” On March 10, the first day of South by Southwest (SXSW), Nelson gave a presentation on foraging in urban areas, well-suited for complete beginners, with a bit of additional attention for Austin locals.

“But, loud lady,” Nelson says, imitating disempowered city folk, “I don’t live in the middle of the woods like it seems like you do.” Rest assured, there is no minimum rusticness required for foragers to ride this ride. She points out that she spotted some edible plants right across the street from the convention center that went completely unnoticed by passersby.

Austinites are lucky to live in a city with prevalent green spaces, and unlucky to live in a state where collecting plants on public lands is generally illegal — not that police offers know that law, Nelson suggests. In fact, it's difficult to find those laws at all, even with a detailed online search. A debate circulates the Hill Country yearly during wildflower season, when rumors claim bluebonnets are illegal to pick, but news sources and blogs generally agree the activity is permitted in certain circumstances.

Nelson and many others (take fashion designer Ron Finley, who was legally threatened for planting a garden in a public area), have argued that restrictive laws around food sources were often — and still remain — a tool for curtailing self-sufficiency for non-landowners (including, but not limited to enslaved people). Even in her own yard, Nelson says she faced homeowners association fines for allowing it to grow naturally.

"It is an act of justice to put our hands to the earth to support ourselves," Nelson asserts in a video about why she chose the moniker BlackForager.

The SXSW talk also addressed other reasons to support foraging in marginalized communities and beyond: it provides nutritionally dense foods compared to the grocery store items that are selectively grown for taste and prolonged storage, gets people involved in their surroundings and land stewardship, and exposes a "new inherent value" even in seemingly less fruitful environments.

It’s possible to find snacks and seasonings in backyards, trees that were planted as decoration, and nature hikes — basically anywhere that it's not dangerous to consume plants. Nelson recommends staying away from the edges of sidewalks, houses that may contain lead paint, railroad tracks, golf courses, and other sites that are heavily fertilized. She also pointed out poison ivy along a creek trail in Austin.

Some plants Texans can forage, from Nelson's presentation (which covered a much wider geographic range), include:

  • Cherries: Some cherry trees are native to Texas, with edible blossoms and fruits (minus the pits). The blossoms can be used as a garnish or made into a fruity, almond-like syrup.
  • Serviceberries: The small fruits are delicious and come out earlier in the season than many. Their leaves are also edible. These are delicious fresh off the plant, but Nelson also likes making serviceberry jelly.
  • Magnolias: These trees are beautiful, and easy to find in many Texas neighborhoods. Nelson describes the flavor of the native varieties' flowers as "floral citrus with a little spice at the end," and uses the leaves as a bay leaf substitute.
  • Oak trees: One of the most ubiquitous symbols of Texas and the South produces acorns, which must be processed for snacking, but can also be made into a flour for baking.
  • Texas persimmon: Asian cultures value this fruit more than most, but Texans have their own native varietal. Fruits should be eaten only when ripe, when they will look black and taste sweet.
  • Yaupon: This holly tree is native to Texas and commonly thought to be toxic, although that's not the whole story. Although the berries are toxic when eaten in too high a quantity, the leaves have long been made into tea.
  • Dandelions: These weeds are not native to Texas, but grow basically everywhere, anyway. They are entirely edible including their roots. Dandelion greens, especially, can be found in grocery stores and even restaurants.
  • Horseweed: one of the most annoying lawn invaders is actually delicious, and even rumored to be used in a very popular soda. This is the plant Nelson saw across from the Convention Center. It tastes sweeter dried.
  • Thistles: These like dry soil (a Texas hallmark), and can be eaten as long as the spikes are not in the way. Artichokes are a type of thistle. The stems taste like celery.

Nelson shares recipes on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, along with general tips for foraging. There are many blogs and even some semi-official resources for foraging in Texas. Take a friend, and be completely sure of identification before tasting something.

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Austin earned top 10 rank for highest number of build-to-rent homes last year


With the increasing demand for housing and rising popularity of constructing homes for rent, Austin has earned a top 10 position in a new analysis of American metro areas with the highest number of single-family rentals built for all of 2022.

A total of 324 build-to-rent homes were completed in Austin in 2022, which is a 10-year high, according to the study by RentCafe. The newest findings put the Texas Capital three places higher than in 2021, when the city ranked No. 13 in the nation.

"Austin was named the second fastest growing city in the U.S. by the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise," the study's author wrote. "That came after the city recorded a 4.3 percent rise in its GDP in 2022 to $216 billion, following the Bay Area."

The study analyzed build-to-rent data from RentCafe's sister site, Yardi Matrix, for communities that had at least 50 single-family rental units.

Dallas nailed the rankings this year by earning the top spot with nearly 2,800 single-family rental units completed last year. Phoenix (which outpaced Dallas last year) ranked No. 2 with only 1,527 units completed. After Phoenix, single-family rentals in other American metro areas only went into the triple digits, with Atlanta, Georgia (No. 3) at 808, Greenville, South Carolina (No. 4) at 584, and Charlotte, North Carolina rounding out the top five with 475 units completed.

The metro areas that complete the top 10 for the most build-to-rent homes in 2022 include:

  • No. 6 – Detroit, Michigan
  • No. 7 – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • No. 8 – Panama City, Florida
  • No. 9 – Charleston, South Carolina
  • No. 10 – Austin, Texas

Austin had the seventh highest number of single-family rentals completed in the country within the last five years, totaling 1,096 units. The Texas cities that ranked higher were Dallas (No. 2) and Houston (No. 4). San Antonio ranked below Austin at No. 8. Phoenix took the No. 1 spot with over 6,000 build-to-rent homes completed in the same time period.

The study's findings support a growing demand for flexibility among renters who may not want the high cost and maintenance associated with home ownership, RentCafe says.

“More and more people are deciding they want the best of both worlds: the flexible lifestyle of the renter, with no maintenance commitments and costs, and the comfort and privacy offered by living in a house,” the study’s author wrote. “In this case, build-to-rent homes check all of the boxes, while high home prices and rising interest rates make them even more appealing.”

The number of single-family rentals is expected to continue rising dramatically in 2023. Currently, 945 units are under construction in Austin. Overall, there are 44,700 build-to-rent homes being built this year throughout the nation; three times more than the number of completed homes in all of 2022, the study says.

Shuttered Salvation Army shelter in downtown Austin will get new life

Salvation Army

When the Salvation Army shelter on East Eighth Street shut its doors back in April, Austin City Council member Zohaib "Zo" Qadri (District 9) said it was unfortunate to see as an Austin resident and leader.

"The Salvation Army kind of abruptly stated that they were pulling out without much of a notice to the residents of the shelter in the district – a shelter that largely houses or housed women and children," Qadri said. "So, you know, that was a huge disappointment for us."

Now the City of Austin has reached a compromise and solution that Qadri believes will help those experiencing homelessness. The Austin City Council on Thursday, June 8, approved a 12-month lease agreement for the former Salvation Army shelter that will cost more than $1 million.

The site will be operated by California-based nonprofit Urban Alchemy, which also provides services at the ARCH, or the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. The council also approved a contract for Urban Alchemy to add more funding, extend the ARCH program and run the former Salvation Army shelter, providing 150 beds.

Urban Alchemy will get more than $4 million.

Later this summer, City leaders will also consider a temporary emergency shelter that will provide around 300 more beds for people experiencing homelessness.

ECHO, or the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, estimates there are thousands of people experiencing homelessness in Austin. Since the city's camping ban was reinstated in May 2021, many of these individuals have spread out throughout the city or gone into hiding, making it harder to connect them with services.


Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

Tenacious D will play the best song in the world in Austin this fall

Spicy Meatball

America's favorite (only?) comedy rock duo is back on tour, and lucky for Austinites, they've announced the addition of three Texas dates this fall. Of course, we're talking about none other than Tenacious D, comprised of Jack Black and Kyle Glass.

The duo's Spicy Meatball Tour is currently underway this month in Europe, with newly extended dates including Houston (September 13), Grand Prairie (September 14), and Austin (September 15).

Supporting acts are yet to be announced, but tickets are on sale as of Friday, June 9, at 10 am. Fans can purchase tickets HERE.

According to a release, the tour dates come on the heels of the recently-released recorded version of Tenacious D’s viral, fan-favorite live cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” The single is accompanied by a video directed by longtime D collaborator Taylor Stephens, and features our dynamic duo in a glorious, romantic romp by the sea. Last month, they released their first new song in five years, “Video Games,” which has been streamed over 18 million times across all platforms in less than a month. The animated music video, created by Oney Plays, brings video game-ified versions of Black and Glass to life in classic and hilarious ways.

In addition to the single releases, Tenacious D will be the special guest at this year’s Video Game Awards, happening on June 25 at the Hollywood Bowl, where they will perform their new single.

But of course the burning question remains: Will Black perform his equally viral "Peaches" from the recent Super Mario Bros. movie? There's only one way to find out.

Full Tour Dates are below (new dates in bold font):
6/7/23 Berlin, Germany @ Zitadelle
6/8/23 Nickelsdorf, Austria @ Nova Rock Festival
6/10/23 Milan, Italy @ Carroponte
6/12/23 Zurich, Switzerland @ The Hall
6/13/23 Brussels, Belgium @ Forest National
6/14/23 Rotterdam, Netherlands @ Ahoy
6/16/23 London, England @ O2 Arena
6/18/23 Clisson, France @ Hellfest Open Air Festival
6/25/23 Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Bowl (Video Game Awards)
9/6/23 Charlotte, NC @ PNC Music Pavilion
9/7/23 Franklin, TN @ Firstbank Amphitheater
9/9/23 Indianapolis, IN @ All IN Music Festival
9/11/23 Rogers, AR @ Walmart AMP
9/13/23 Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
9/14/23 Grand Prairie, TX @ Texas Trust CU Theatre
9/15/23 Austin, TX @ Germania Insurance Amphitheater