The Ultimate Way to Eat Local and Seasonal

Natural Awakenings

Natural Awakenings
June 3, 2013

 

Wild plants foraged locally, such as ramps, cattails and wild watercress, are showing up more and more at farmers markets and restaurants. These foods are not just tasty; they’re rich in nutrients from the mineral-dense forest floor on which they grow.

Foraged Is the New Local

Wild foods are typically indigenous plants, growing locally and naturally in their native habitat. Alan Muskat, an advocate who’s passionate about preserving forests and sharing the skills of foraging with the next generation, says that only indigenous plants are truly local. “With some local food, you are taking a European import and making it grow here. Then you have to supplement and alter the soil to get it to thrive,” says Muskat. “For instance, European truffles are difficult to grow here because they don’t belong here and they are not adapted to this region.” In contrast, Muskat says that indigenous plants and fungi need no special tending, fertilizer or pesticides to be healthy and vibrant…

Foraging Is Good for the Forest

Contrary to popular belief, foraging is not bad for the forest. “It does not deplete the forest’s treasures,” says Muskat, who argues that foraging in the woods for mushrooms, for example, is actually good for the environment. “The fungus is still there beneath the ground or in the log. You aren’t removing it, because it’s renewing and sustainable,” he says. “Truffles and chanterelles, for example, only grow in healthy woods. If people realize this, they’ll treasure the woods even more.”

A little education makes it easy to harvest things like leaves and roots while respecting the impact on plants, says Muskat. “When you have a personal relationship with your food, it becomes like friends and family, the people you care about,” he says. “So foraging is not what hurts the environment – not foraging is what hurts the environment.”