THE BLOG

Foraging for the Past

In the nooks and crannies of even the most crowded city, a wealth of wild ingredients waits to be discovered -- and collected.
09/22/2014 11:10am ET | Updated November 22, 2014
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Every mom is embarrassing. But Kara Flynn's used to forage for dandelions outside her junior high school. Casey Brand tells the story.

The recent foraging trend is nothing new to Kara Flynn. She spent her childhood reluctantly foraging for blackberries, dandelion greens and cardoons with her mother Mary Louise Gerlach. Similarly, Gerlach recalls her own father foraging for a variety of plants.

Flynn attributes her family's love of foraging to their Sicilian roots. Foraging still plays a significant, if reduced, role in Italian culture, especially in rural areas. Foraged ingredients such as dandelion greens and wild mushrooms are dinner table staples in some parts of the country.

Increasingly, chefs in the U.S are putting foraged ingredients on their menus. They are following Chef René Redzepi who popularized the practice at Noma, his restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. Since earning two Michelin stars in 2008, the restaurant's use of local and seasonal foraged ingredients has captured the culinary world's attention.

The foraging trend is not limited to restaurant kitchens. From Los Angeles' Sunset Boulevard to New York's Central Park, foraging tours are becoming popular attractions for both tourists and locals. Led by an experienced guide, these tours teach would-be foragers how to identify wild plants. Urban dwellers across America forage for food under street lamps and stairwells.

Foraging, by its nature, is highly dependent on season and location. A forager in West Virginia might find a plethora of ramps, while someone in Vermont might instead stumble upon morel mushrooms. In Louisiana, pokeweed is a common find.

In the nooks and crannies of even the most crowded city, a wealth of wild ingredients waits to be discovered - and collected.

-- Text by Casey Brand

- Video by Daniel McCollum