Being a foodie isn’t just about finding the best restaurants, taco stands, and wine bars; it’s about finding and savoring the widest variety of food experiences possible. So what is a foodie in the outdoors to do? Forage. When you delve into the ‘gatherer’ side of your hunter-gatherer heritage, there is a wealth of edible goodies to be had: wild greens, flowers, vegetables, fruits, wild yeast, and mushrooms. Make sure that you have a trusted field guide with you any time you are foraging, as a percentage (albeit small) of plants growing in the wild anywhere can harm or even kill you. To familiarize yourself with safe eating practices, avoiding endangered species, and general rules of thumb, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the Forager Press, particularly their Do’s and Don’ts before trying your hand at foraging in these six destinations:
- In Sweden, you don’t have to venture far outside of Stockholm to find a huge bounty of edible mushrooms. Horn of plenty, ceps, and chanterelles are common here. Not much of a chef, or like the hunt better than the eating? Sell them to a mushroom buyer or directly to a restaurant: they’ll pay top dollar.
- Vancouver’s location and climate bring a veritable bumper crop of edibles. Yummy greens such as stinging nettles are easy to find, and the mushrooms include matsutake and morel. Head along the north coast to take advantage of wild (and wildly delicious) blackberries and huckleberries in the summer.
- Chicago, believe it or not, sparks a forager frenzy every spring. The Native Americans that first settled the area gave the city its name, which actually means ‘Stinky Town’, because of the wild onions that overtook the region. These spring onions, or ‘ramps’, have become an object of obsession for local chefs. Join in the hunt for ramps, or just enjoy the annual Ramp Festival that plays out in restaurants city-wide.
- Most people think of Italy or France when they hear the word ‘truffles’, but the UK is actually a great place to go foraging for these precious hunks of fungus. It’s the UK’s rainy, humid climate that helps them grow. Just grab your trusty truffle-sniffing pig (or a seasoned veteran truffle hunter), strap on your wellies, and go!
- The San Francisco Bay Area combines a huge array of forageables with a huge foraging community. While NileGuide does not in any way condone illegal activities, anyone with a small boat and a wetsuit can go hunting for the elusive and endangered Abalone. Much less dangerous is hunting for wild purslane, which is a pest for local farmers that just happens to be delicious. Since the only way to fully eradicate purslane is liberal application of chemical pesticides, any purslane you find is going to be organic in addition to a crunchy, salty, pleasantly sour green high in Omega 3 fatty acids. If you’re a baker, consider ‘hunting’ the air for some of the area’s famous ‘sour’ yeast. Figure out how to catch and feed a yeast beast here.
- Believe it or not, your own backyard probably has a bunch of edibles you can forage without much trouble… that is, unless you use pesticides on any of your plants or have your house sprayed for bugs. If your yard is chemical clean, a great place to start foraging is with an annoying weed: dandelions! Use the leaves to make a fun addition to your salads. Who knows… you might find a patch of morels in your weekly dandelion hunt.
While you have to be careful foraging (and remember that wild does not necessarily mean clean), it’s a great way to get in touch with your natural surroundings and change your thinking about where your food can come from. Do you forage something great in a destination I didn’t cover? Let me know in the comments section!