From the 9th to the 16th of March 2021 I did a small and fun experiment that consisted in eating mostly foraged food for a week.
60 to 80 % of my diet was foraged.
Why did I do it?
Mostly because I wanted to learn more about the botanical environment around me while taking in consideration bioregional and seasonal patterns, community necessities and health concerns.
I invited my partner and some of the villagers/nieghbors to join me during SOME MEALS, to see if others too could enjoy a foraged meal.
- Sharing: The journey of this week was shared on a daily basis in Instagram and in this very page too (see below)
- Creating Change: challenging the cultural norms and the belief that we are stricktly dependent on the agro-industrial and conventional food systems.
- Thriving NOT starving: I did not starve myself, on the contrary, I gave myself (and others too) all the nutrients and pleasures my body craves, thus I adjusted my meals accordignly.
- Creativity: developing recipes: I developed a few recipes and took inspiration from books and online blogs too;
- Respect: I foraged what I found abundantly in the wild, avoided trepassing on someone else land nor did I take endangered species. I foraged safe and easy to identify plants and berries.
- Resources and References: I used the following references and resources for plant identification and usage.
→ Hedgerow by John Wright
→ Food for free by Richard Mabey
→ The Hedgerow Handbook by Adele Nozedar
→ Nature's Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer
→ The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, And Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer
Plant Identification Apps:
→ PlantNet and PictureThis
FOLLOW THE JOURNEY ON INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK
Reflections and Results
This Wild Week was a very special learning and culinary experience.
The purpose of this Wild Week was to learn more about wild edibles, to incorporate them in my daily habits and, above all, to learn about the bioregional patterns and botanical landscape around me. Moreover, I wanted to share foraging pratices with others too.
In front of the nettles, dandelion leaves and crow garlic pasta, my neighbor, Renato, exclaimed: “ I cannot believe how tasty and filling this food is! How beautifully presented, with all of these colors. Honestly I was very skeptical, certainly eating “grass” wasn’t so appealing, but after this meal I definitely changed my mind.”
A few days later, when I was making dandelion blooms marmalade, he called his friends in Brazil and told them that “you can make marmalade out of those yellow things!”
These small moments and reactions were definitely a reward for me.
All the times I’d pass through the villages around where I live, I’d be stopped by many curious faces wanting to know what laid inside my basket.
I learned a lot from the villagers themselves too, we would occasionally exchange information; I would show them a wild edible they didn’t know and they would show me the plants they traditionally ate in their cuisine.
Overall, I enjoyed a lot this informal learning, and even though the knowledge on wild plants sometimes felt overwhelming, the more I learned the more I wanted to learn and experiment.
WILD WEEK DAY BY DAY
1 foraged meal
I started this "challange" during the afternoon so, in the day 1, I cooked only one meal with 90% foraged ingredients. In the field around the small village where we live, I found lots of Chickweed and nettles. Thus, I made our dinner with mostly these 2 nourishing but often discarded plants.
• Dinner: Nettle pasta and Chickweed salad
3 Foraged meals.
Today was tough. I had lots of things to do and going out foraging to find food to eat wasn't the priority. However, we did it! We walked around and found chickweed, nettles, dandelions, ribwort plantain, primroses, wild violets and white rocket flowers.
• Breakfast: Oatmeal with dandelion marmalade and Yarrow + mint tea
• Lunch: wild flowers sandwiches
• Dinner: we made sourdough nettle bread with the leftover flowers salad
3 Foraged meals
Today I felt overwhelmed and tired. There are many things on my plate right now and the weather was windy and rainy. I didn't go out foraging, but we still had some delicious nettle bread left from yesterday and a few handfuls of nettles, goosegrass and crow garlic left withering inside the basket.
Yeah, today I didn't prioritize finding tasty and beautiful recipes, the stress and other daily commitments took over.
• Breakfast: sourdough nettle bread with dandelion marmalade
• Lunch: pasta with nettles
• Dinner: leftover pasta with nettles, goosegrass, crow garlic and some leftover radicchio
1 gifted meal and 1 foraged meal
Today slipped through my fingers. Studying and building an office table were the reasons why I forgot to cook and forage for the most part of the day. As I've already said in the past days, it often happens that we prioritize other activities over health and eating.
During lunch time, our neighbor came to visit and brought us the "herbivorous version" of his homemade pizza. We were stuck on the computer and it was a beautiful surprise to be spoiled with this delicious gift.
For dinner I decided to quickly go out and find some simple edible weeds in the lawn of the village in which we live.
I foraged some chickweed, dandelions leaves and plantain and I made my own version of the "famous" Chickweed Pakoras by John Wright.
• Lunch: Gifted delicious spinach and capris pizza
• Dinner: Rolled oat, Chickweed and curry powder pakoras served with sauté of wild herbs
3 foraged meals
Today the wind was so strong that it wasn't so easy to keep the plants from fly away from the basket, but yes, I went out foraging and it was a beautiful meditative walk for me.
The day was quite challenging on the social sphere. However, instead of dwelling in conflict, I focused in finding the space and the time to cook a good amount of tasty food and enjoy it thoroughly.
Now everything is solved and I feel peacefully exhausted.
• Breakfast: Leftover of Sourdough nettle bread with chestnut jam
• Lunch: Pasta with wild foraged pesto, primroses and wild violets
+ Wild salad (Chickweed, goosegrass, Plantain and hairy bittercress)
• Dinner: Nettle and red lentils soup
2 foraged meals
Today I went out on what I thought would be a quick foraging walk and I ended up staying out for 4 hours.
I met some villagers from the neighborhood and I got to know some of their foraging practices.
I was so excited to engage with people who are naturally using wild plants in their everyday diets.
When I went home I made a simple pasta with the new wild edibles that the people of that village showed me. I haven't tried those new tastes before today, and I must say that this dinner, as simple as it might looks, was a wild and fulfilling culinary experience.
What a great Monday!
• Breakfast: Wild flowers and lesser celandine Oatmeal
• Dinner: Whole grain pasta with chicory and other local edibles (unknown names to me) + Wood Sorrel salad
3 foraged meals
Today I took all the time I could to relax and play around.
I met some neighbors and they shared with me a simple recipe with the wild plants I foraged.
• Breakfast: Leftover pasta with wild herbs cooked for yesterday's dinner (yes, it's not pretty but I was tired and hungry and didn't want to bother to cook)
• Lunch: Couscous with chicory leaves, fried plantain and marigold blooms
• Dinner: Leftover couscous with a traditional simple recipe of steamed wild herbs
Although life was still going on during this week, I managed to go out and forage for our meals, everyday.
Me and my partner and, at times, some neighbors, ate about 60 to 70% of foraged food during this week.
The rest of the non-foraged ingredients were mostly starches, such as pasta, flour, rice and couscous (we spent less than 10 Euros/€ for those ingredients for a week).
The main challenge during this week was not to find enough wild edibles to incorporate in our diet, but to find the time to go out on walks to forage. I realize that no matter how busy we are it’s quite challenging to dedicate a fair amount of time each day to source our food.
In my research I found that the majority people I encountered (living in the Western countries) do not value and incorporate slow food practices, nor have the time to grow, forage, or even cook every meal. As a matter of fact, I realize myself how used I am to have quick meals or easily available ingredients. And, when I’m busy, how frustrating it is to dedicate extra time for each meal to be ready to be eaten. The efficiency and the easily available food choices that we have are impressive and proud achievements that allow the majority of people to dedicate their time to other activities. “Humans have invested thousands of years of labor and innovation into refining, selecting, cultivating, and processing energy-rich foods, all to ensure access to sufficient calories”(Thayer, Samuel, Nature's Garden). However, on the other side, as I previously mentioned, the food industry contributes to lots of the major issues we are facing such as biodiversity loss or greenhouse gases emissions, to name a few. Moreover, the clearance of many wild areas for industrial development have a detrimental effect on biodiversity. Thus, less store-bought food and more foraged meals can clearly create a positive impact,
Overall, I realized that if you want to eat mostly foraged food, you need to invest a fair amount of time to get to know the different wild species around you and consistently incorporate your findings into your life.