photo by Wild Food School on http://blinkcollective.com
by Anastasia Potter, © Anterior:Insight (defunct) September 2006
As consumers show heightened interest in the provenance of the food they are eating Anterior-Insight has been tracking the rise of connoisseurs foraging for food in the wild. Not content with reducing food miles and purchasing their produce from organic farmer’s markets they are taking it one step further. This is about food steps, not food miles and a sustainable way of eating even for those living in the heart of the urban jungle.
Enterprises such as the River Cottage have been at the forefront of the rise in food foraging. Under the expert guidance of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and expert food forager John Wright, courses such as Walk on the Wildside Mushroom Foraging and Edible Seashore or Catch and Bake, offer people not only the chance to gather their own food but also learn to cook it up into tasty dishes as well. Their website offers seasonal recipes such as Stuffed Puffball and they have put together a book and DVD entitled A Cook on the Wild Side for the die hard food forager.
In South Wales, The Foxhunter restaurant offers a similar course where customers are encouraged to embark on a foraging trip with Raoul Van Den Broucke through the nearby woods. Their bounty, which could be elderberries, sea spinach, mushrooms and roast pigeon, is then cooked in a gourmet lunch assembled by top chef Matt Tebbutt back at the restaurant.
Fergus Drennan of Wildman Wildfood is another professional forager who has supplied some of London’s top restaurants including Fifteen and The Ivy with foraged treats. He offers courses in various foraging habitats whether it be woodland, field, river or seashore and encourages foragers to help him cook, usually over an open fire. Fergus is also an ardent fan of eating road kill, promoting it as a source of fresh organic meat. Arthur Boyt is another road kill enthusiast, regularly cooking up badger, squirrel or hedgehog that he finds dead on the road and is in the process of penning a cookbook on the subject.
The Fungi To Be With mushroom club of London helps urbanites reconnect with nature with fungi expeditions in Hampstead Heath teaching people how to identify edible mushrooms. Its website offers an enlightening, entertaining and insightful introduction to the fascinating world of fungi. It is also starting overseas mushroom foraging missions in La Barranco in Spain for serious fungi enthusiasts.
Dryland Bushcraft is another organisation providing Wilderness Gourmet courses preparing a three course meal in the great outdoors, using a combination of seasonably available wild foods as well as foods sourced from the local area. All food is cooked over wood fires and a chef is available for advice on all culinary matters.
A little further a field the Lamai Homestay in Thailand offers guests an option of a three day foraging tour with village elders. This is for the more adventurous forager and boasts exotic treats including frogs, bugs and scorpions.
Food foraging as a concept is anything but new, but its renewed popularity shows how consumers are increasingly willing to make food not just a matter of sustenance but also one of discovery, knowledge and fun. By foraging consumers can connect with wildlife as well as learn new skills.
by Anastasia Potter, © A:I September 2006