Foraging went out of style roughly at the same time agriculture became widespread practice in human society. Why spend all day hunting for food when you can set up your backyard to grow it for you?
We’ve since gotten really good at agriculture, so much so that it might not occur to today’s youth that you can find food in the woods. (Never mind that wild animals have to eat something.)
A recent trend toward local, organic, and sustainable food has also inspired some people to go all the way back to our foraging roots.
Michael Pollan wrote about his experience creating a hunter/gatherer meal in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan hunted wild boar, gathered mushrooms, and prepared a feast for his family and the people who helped him out. Though it was a lot of fun, foraging was also a lot of work for Pollan. It’s easy to see why we don’t really mind spending out lives on other activities.
We’re also starting to see food foraging become popular in cities.
ForageSF is an organization that brings fresh, wild food to city dwellers. It’s like a CSA without the farm: They also deliver boxes of wild produce to people who want it.
Every month, ForageSF hosts an eight-course meal; tickets are $80 and in very short supply.
Last month’s forage dinner … featured dishes like miso-marinated black cod with blood red daikon and quick-fried wild radish greens, wild fennel pesto over handmade gnocchi, black trumpet risotto with braised wild cattails and wild lavender-grilled duck breast, and local albacore tuna tartare with tempura-fried sea beans.
Not that everything actually made it onto the plate. A forage-based menu, after all, depends on what can actually be foraged in the days leading up to the dinners
Though ForageSF has only existed since 2008, their model offers inspiration for other communities. I wonder if something like this would work in my home of Lansing, Michigan.
Foraging is not and will never again be able to feed the world (at our current size), but then again no one is suggesting that foraging try to do so. What groups like ForageSF do very well is tell the story of where food comes from and present an alternative to the grocery store status quo.
The fact that many of those weeds out back are edible is lost on most people. The idea that those weeds can be tasty, well that would blow people away. (Note: Please don’t go and eat random weeds based on that line.)
Food foraging is making a comeback, and I’m excited to see what happens.