Approximately two years ago we found what looked like a morel in the garden and within hours Langdon Cook, author of Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager confirmed via @twitter that the mushroom was edible. Thanks to social media, we became pseudo foragers.
Like urban gardening, foraging is becoming progressively more mainstream as shoppers seek out seasonal, locally grown and sustainable foods. Culturally, the concept of seeking and hand-selecting wild edibles works well with the desire for unique experiences— aligning with popular terms like artisan, bespoke and curate. We reconnected with the author to gain a deeper understanding of how foraging and reconnecting with our agrarian past is not just another food trend, but a widely accepted part of daily life that generations today are rediscovering.
"My hope is that a renewed enthusiasm for foraging will help advance current debate about food issues. Foraging is seasonal by its very nature. Many foraged foods are exceptionally nutritious, much more so, in fact, than their domestic counterparts (i.e. "weeds" such as watercress, dandelions, lambs-quarters and stinging nettles are off the charts in vitamins and minerals; huckleberries are loaded with antioxidants; wild salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids; even mushrooms contain certain necessary minerals). said Langdon Cook. Foraging encourages a closer relationship with the landscape and the foods we eat. To become educated about foraging is to become educated about food. That said, it's incumbent on the forager to learn about those plants and fungi that are not edible."
The rise in demand of foraged edibles in restaurants has gradually increased the popularity of events, excursions, classes and blogs to inform passionate gastronomes. Below are four concepts worth checking out.
- Forage - One of LA Magazines's best new restaurants featuring produce from local growers. Opened in January 2010, the initial and revised foraging program encourages customers to bring in their own home-grown produce (If they like it and accept it, Forage will make a dish with it and name it after you. A blog post titled The return of foraging details all of the ins and outs).
- Forage Foods - Calgary based take-out shop focusing on ready to eat foods made with a majority of local foods from sustainable farms opened in 2007. Specials include a wide range of pre-prepared foods, fresh baked goods, fresh produce, frozen meals, and local gourmet foods.
- Nettletown - Hidden in a tiny strip mall along Seattle's Eastlake Ave, Nettletown opened March 2010 (formerly the Sitka and Spruce space). A personal lunch favorite, the noodles, home-made pickles and sandwiches highlights wild and local ingredients from Christina Choi of Foraged & Found Edibles. (now closed)
- Foragers Market - Dumbo is a family run market with sustainable produce and well-edited selection assortment of foods. The menu reflects more growing and sourcing of quality seasonal foods than foraged foods but we like the city grocer feel.
Prized treasures like mushrooms and wild greens can be harvested throughout many parts of the US but success depends on a variety of visual and seasonal hints. Much like the dumpster diving craze of the late 80's, a misstep could find you face-to-face with something extraordinarily unsafe.