I've been foraging since almost forever, but for the vast majority of my life, it was only a few random things every once in a while.
I started seriously foraging, using foraged foods as a regular food source for my family about 2.5 years ago, and ever since then, the way I forage and prepare my foraged foods has certainly evolved.
When I first started seriously foraging, my attitude was: "It's edible. It's healthy. Its free. Lets eat it."
And I did
With not much concern about how it tasted.
Caring not at all how it looked.
We ate lots of rabbit food, wild edibles that certainly looked and tasted wild and untamed. And not always so tasty.
The more I got into foraging, the more foraged foods were becoming a staple in our home, the more I realized that I needed to change things up, that I couldn't just keep on making the same greens sauted in butter with garlic for every single meal.
So I started making variety, making soups, quiches, salads, dips, curries, etc...
And I have to say- I enjoyed the foraged food much better this way, because, now, not only was the food I was eating free, but it also tasted good.
I wasn't eating it just to say that I was eating something free, I was eating it because I wanted to, because it was yummy.
But I still had a way to go.
The foods I was making were just thrown together, often looking rather unpresentable. They were foods that I'd serve my family, maybe a few close friends, but certainly they weren't things that I've serve to guests, or when trying to impress.
Because we don't just eat with our stomach or our taste buds. We eat with our eyes. A true feast, a truly delightful meal pleases the eyes as much as it pleases the tastebuds and stomach.
And that's where I fell short.
I mean, I could make pretty food, sometimes, but not with those foraged foods.
I needed inspiration. And recently I've found some. A whole lot.
People that serve ultra frugal meals, made from free, foraged ingredients, that are reminiscent of something you'd find in a high end restaurant.
Gourmet foraged food.
Restaurant class foraged food. (Which, by the way, is not actually so uncommon. More and more high end restaurants these days are using foraged goodies in their food preparation.)
The two most inspirational foraged feast websites that I've been looking at lately are Hank Shaw's Honest-Food.net, and Mia Wasilevich and Pascal Baudar's TransitionalGastronomy.com, among others. What I especially like about these sites is that they make me look at my foraged foods from another angle entirely, make me rethink flavor combinations and push my horizons a little bit to discover pairings of flavors that I wouldn't have otherwise tried, but are very delightful.
The more I see the wonderful ideas there, the more I see the amazing restaurant quality creations these foragers cooked up, the more I get inspired to up my ante a little bit, and also try to make my foraged goodies look and taste gourmet. One day, maybe, I can start my own restaurant featuring foraged goodies. But that's still a long way away.
In the meantime, I had my first goal- make a feast of gourmet style foraged foods, with a few courses.
To do that, I headed out on a foraging expedition.
Look how much bounty I got in a short amount of time!
2 large buckets of grapes
A bunch of purslane
Olive leaves. (Yes, you can use olive leaves for many things, but I'll get into more specifics in another post.)
Wild lettuce/prickly lettuce
Plantain (used more medicinally than food wise, but that'll be for another post).
Once I came home and saw what I had to work with (I also had some yucca blossoms that I had foraged the day before), I set to work creating a menu plan. For now, I'm not really able to forage proteins, other than the occasional nuts and seeds, nor am I able to forage starches, so I decided that those items would be not foraged, but every dish in the meal would include one or many foraged items.
Homemade grape juice and wine
Wild greens chilled soup, containing mallow, purslane, hollyhocks, and lemon
This is the dish I am most proud of, something I plan on making again and again. It was inspired by a dish on TransitionalGastronomy.com that used yucca petals with a wild mustard sauce. Though I knew yucca tasted similar to artichoke, and though I knew mustard and lemon tasted good with artichoke, it didn't hit me to pair a mustardy lemon sauce with the yucca until I saw that. This salad had a bunch of parboiled yucca petals, radishes, quartered figs, wild lettuce, sow thistle, and a dressing made from my vegan mustardy mayo with lemon and garlic.
The dish just looked so pretty to me, picture perfect, and on top of that, the flavors melded beautifully. An absolute success.
I also made an Asian inspired purslane salad with soy sauce, passionfruit, pomegranate, scallions, and foraged almonds. Unfortunately I don't have a photo, but that too was picture perfect and a success.
Pickled lemons was also on the menu.
Passionfruit coconut banana ice cream
It was such a terrific dinner that I want to do this type of thing again!
I've also recently created another gourmet foraged dish that was so good that I just had to share-
Purslane, cactus paddles, tomatoes, black olives, chickpeas, and hearts of palm. It was so tasty as is that I only put on a drop of oil and garlic powder, no other seasonings necessary.
Here's some more amazing bounty I got while foraging on a few different trips, and also from generous neighbors-
Cactus paddles, aloe vera, passion fruit, plums, prickly pear, yucca
Cactus paddles, carob, passionfruit, purslane, peppers (bell and hot), prickly pears, peaches, milk thistle
Large num nums/natal plums, sow thistle, yucca, and purslane.
So much goodness.
Nearly all organic.
You can bet your bottom dollar that with this amount of veggies and fruit that I get for free, I'm not spending nearly as much on groceries as I would otherwise.
It's absolutely amazing.
I can't wait to whip up yet another deliciously gourmet dinner made with the freshest, organic, foraged goodies.
What type of food do you usually cook/serve? Is the emphasis on nutrition and what will fill your belly and is cheap, or do you try to focus a lot on making things taste terrific and have variety? Or do you try to make gourmet style food? What are your tricks for making food look gourmet?
If you're a forager, ever made any foraged gourmet goodies?
What food porn websites do you look at for inspiration?
Any other foraged food porn sites to recommend?