Foraging for our food

access_time 2020 · 02 · 14

It is the sustainable food trend that takes us back to our roots, living off the land in the most wholesome way possible and rediscovering long-forgotten ingredients.

Wild food foraging began among some of the world’s leading chefs, always on the search for the freshest flavours, but has now become popular with home cooks and people looking to enrich their diets with local seasonal produce, instead of buying processed, packaged food from supermarkets. 

From forest mushrooms to seaweed found along the coast, berries to nettles and sweet chestnuts, our surroundings offer a wealth of different ingredients we can make use of every day. 

Who is leading the foraging trend? 

The idea of foraging for wild ingredients has become so popular that British celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is offering foraging courses at his River Cottage cookery school, educating foodies on how to identify key ingredients.

He is not the only chef helping the public embrace fresh, local ingredients that grow wild in parks and forests. Two Michelin-star restaurant Noma, in Copenhagen, is one of the most famous eateries in the world and chef Rene Redzepi doesn’t just use foraged ingredients himself, he has also developed an app to help people identify edible ingredients in the local area.

By foraging for food, chefs are also rediscovering herbs ad plants once used by our ancestors that have been lost over time as diets changed and globalisation brought us exotic ingredients from far-off shores. In Brazil, chef Alex Atala uses techniques and ingredients firmly rooted in the Amazon rainforest, the local people and their timeless cooking methods. He regularly ventures out into the Amazon to find new and undiscovered ingredients to use in his Sao Paolo restaurant D.O.M.

Similarly, in the US, Colorado-based chef Karlos Baca is embracing well-loved Native American traditions and serving them to modern diners. He uses location-based foraging, creating dishes from sweet potato, elk, wild mushrooms and chokecherries. For Baca, foraging is a way of life and a cultural homage to thousands of years of heritage and tradition.

So, what can you forage?

The definition of foraging is simply searching out and gathering wild ingredients and anyone can try it, as long as you are safe and make sure to properly identify what you are picking. There is no limit to the list of ingredients we can find growing all around us, whether it is herbs we can use to season our dishes, to plants, fruits, nuts and even shellfish. 

When ingredients are picked this fresh they make for flavoursome meals, ideal for pairing with the perfect wine. Here are some of the key items you can forage and how you can best enjoy them. 

Foraging in the forest

Forests and woodlands are ideal places to forage wild plants you can eat. In the forests of South America, foraging for food like tucupi (a root vegetable) and jambu (a herb) is relatively common. In North America, ingredients such as nettles, Japanese knotweed, wood sorrel and wild brambles are favourite ingredients among natural foragers. 

You’ll also find mushrooms growing in thick woodlands all over the world. The variety of shape, colour, texture and flavour is remarkable; from tiered oyster mushrooms growing on tree trunks to football-sized giant puffballs. Knowing what to pick and what to eat is vital. With the right information and a good deal of care, you should be able to identify which mushrooms are edible and which are poisonous.  

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Ph: © Taryn Fitz-Gerald for One Green Planet

Try sautéing your wild mushrooms with garlic or stirring them into a creamy risotto. The earthiness of the mushroom is perfectly balanced with an Amelia Pinot Noir, renowned for its minerality and long fresh finish. 

Tidal goodness

The seashore has always been a key source of food and as a species, we have rarely ventured too far from the ocean. Both fishing and tidal foraging are easy even for beginners, as long as you keep an eye on the tide. There are plenty of wild plants you can eat that won’t grow anywhere else. Check out ingredients like marsh samphire from the UK, sea rocket in the US and sea buckthorn found all over coastal Asia.

In many parts of the world, you can go down to a beach and find mussels, limpets, crabs, cockles, seaweed, razor clams and much more. Beach foraging is an easy and sustainable way to gather wild ingredients, especially as when the tide comes in, the table is covered and begins to replenish itself once more. 

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Shellfish and salty coastal ingredients will pair perfectly with an Amelia Chardonnay. This coastal wine brings crisp freshness and mineral tones that complement the delicate and salty seafood found on the shores, try it with fresh clam chowder.

Hidden hedge delights

As you stroll through the countryside you will likely find hedges packed with wonderful wild ingredients to be enjoyed, think blackberries and raspberries, cherries and crab apples. You can also find savoury ingredients such as rosemary and hedge garlic, also known as garlic mustard. 

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Ph: © Petrina Tinslay for FOOD & WINE

If you can buy – or even better, catch for yourself – fresh wild salmon, consider encrusting it in rosemary and the mustard seeds of hedge garlic, pairing the dish with Amelia Pinot Noir for a beautiful fish dinner  balanced by the cherry notes and hint of black tea leaf in the wine.

If you like the idea of eating seasonally and locally, why not give the food foraging trend a try? Next time you’re out exploring, identify what’s growing around you and pick up some ingredients for your next meal!

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