Foraging is undoubtedly an interesting way to make the most of local produce. With modern-day concern over genetically modified produce, the spotlight on oversized vegetables, heavy with water and low on flavor, has caused many culinary enthusiasts to doubt the quality of supermarket produce from industrial farms. Chefs of top restaurants, such as René Redzepi of Noma, use foraging as a means of getting the freshest and most authentic local produce possible. Foraging has opened up a world of spices, herbs, and wild edibles overlooked by industrial farms and unavailable in stores. Beach peas, Indian cucumber, colorful mushrooms in various shapes and sizes, wild asparagus, berries, herbs such as mint, tarragon, and chives, and even hay, edible flowers, and fish are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fresh ingredients that can be found while foraging for food. Despite the concentrated flavor and incomparably fresh produce that can be found in wild edibles, foraging is not right for all restaurant menus.
Is Foraging for Food Right for Your Restaurant Menus?
Foraging for food is a time consuming and sometimes dangerous business, which can be extremely rewarding for certain venues. Restaurant menus that rely on edible wild plants are likely to change every week, since foraging for food can bring surprising finds to the kitchen, but inconsistently. Another factor to consider is the time investment of foraging for food. Searching for and gathering wild edibles requires time and patience, but so does learning the trade. Before starting to forage, chefs, or any individual for that matter, will have to take the time to study the area and its plants thoroughly, making contact with local experts in order to receive advice about wild edibles. Foraging without proper knowledge of plants is a dangerous business. Edible mushrooms and berries are notorious for having wild, poison relatives, yet the list of poison plants spreads to wild peas and herbs as well. By gathering knowledge of local produce, conversing with local professionals familiar with the regional plants, and always being extremely cautious, foragers are likely to overcome the dangers of foraging for food. It is important to keep in mind that, in addition to foraging for food, almost every restaurant will have to supplement their inventory with other ingredients, since wild plants alone are unlikely to yield a vast variety of restaurant dishes. Despite the complications involved with foraging for food, venues which can afford the time and effort it takes to gather wild edible plants and constantly come up with dishes to incorporate those plants, will boost the culinary level of their business and constantly provide an interesting challenge for kitchen staff.
Industrial farms can provide food businesses with large amount of produce on a frequent basis and are therefore a lot more reliable than simple, untouched nature. Businesses not yet ready to take the leap and start foraging for food, but interested in the notion of produce not from industrial farms, should consider starting a restaurant garden, making herbs and selected fruits and vegetables just a snip away, or building relationships with and purchasing from local farmers for the freshest possible ingredients. However, foragers swear by the natural taste of fresh, edible wild plants. There is no doubt that the quality of restaurant dishes can be boosted by tastefully and safely incorporating foraged ingredients.