There’s so much more to foraging than picking mushrooms and berries from the forest floor. You’ll be surprised by the range and amount of forageable foods, from wild garlic to elderflower for a fresh and fragrant homemade cordial (a large part of the fun is that the food foraged really depends on the location).
But sustainably sourcing food from the wild is also good for the environment and opens up your eyes to your natural surroundings; a personally-rewarding hobby in terms of flavour and creativity. Here are the best destinations for foraging around the world.*
Foraging is a way of life in Denmark
The foraging trend was first popularized a decade or so ago by chef René Redzepi of Copenhagen’s Noma, regularly voted the world’s number one restaurant. Though it’s temporarily closed at the time of writing, Noma’s menu is still celebrated for its emphasis on Scandinavian products; vegetables and herbs that grow wild in the region, as well as Nordic seafood and meat. At Meyer’s Madhus in Copenhagen, Noma alumni, Claus Meyer, runs ‘Out in Nature’ foraging courses once a month that take you to the beach or forest in search of edible Danish delights. Foraging is a way of life in Denmark and there are foraging clubs and organisations all over the country, taking gastronomic tourists to popular foraging areas like Nexelo Bay and Fano island. Check into the eco-friendly boutique hotel, Carlton Guldsmeden, in Copenhagen.
London has a surprising number of green spaces suitable for foraging
The London foraging community is one of the most active in the world, with new groups constantly cropping up to guide you on your foraging mission. Groups like Forage London offer guided walks to pick mushrooms and the like, have good relationships with the people whose land you’ll be plundering and will make sure you don’t pick a poisonous bunch. Abundance, Hackney Harvest and Urban Harvest are a few that organize foraging forays such as edible flower walks and tours with maps of fruit trees in the area. London green spaces Hackney Marshes and Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park are great spots for foraging cobnuts, walnuts and nettles. Stay at the Mandarin Oriental, which houses Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant Dinner, supplied by sustainable company, Forager.
Urban forage in Melbourne or head out into the bush for some ‘bush tucker’
Hunting for raw ingredients in Australia is far more fruitful than you might expect, and not just in terms of trawling the bush. The urban foraging scene in both Sydney and Melbourne is now huge. There are guided tours and workshops such as Eat That Weed walks, and restaurants that champion foraging, such as Attica, where Executive Chef Ben Shewry has won numerous awards for his inventive menus and approach. Outside the city, you can forage for truffles, oysters, mushrooms with various guided bushwalks. With Koomal Dreaming in Western Australia, guests go on an educational bushwalk culminating in a food-tasting by a campfire. For the most authentic ‘bush tucker’ (food) of all, take an Animal Tracks safari in the Northern Territory, where Aboriginal elders will use the knowledge their culture has gathered over 30,000 years of living on this land to teach you how to forage for bush carrots, insects and freshwater mussels. Edible Weeds also offers walks through the fertile Yarra Valley; check into the nearby Healesville Hotel and dine at its own gourmet, seasonal restaurant.
Go on a foraging tour in Downtown Manhattan
New York’s Central Park or Brooklyn’s Prospect Park are an Aladdin’s cave for foragers. New York naturalist and ‘wildman’, Steve Brill, runs foraging expeditions to find ingredients like wild garlic and dandelion, which makes a marvellous garnish. Another passionate forager is Leda Meredith, author and expert on foraging who also takes enthusiasts on tours around the city, varying greatly from season to season. And as someone who has subsisted entirely on food grown or raised within 250 miles of Brooklyn, she’s quite an authority on the subject. The Peninsula Hotel in Downtown Manhattan runs foraging tours and picnics as part of its Pensinsula Academy.
Forage for mussels on San Francisco’s shoreline
San Francisco is so forager-friendly that many of its world-class restaurants have menus devoted solely to foraged produce. And ForageSF, a not-for-profit foraging organization, started in 2008 to support the local food community, offers foraging classes where you can get your hands dirty searching for sustainably- and locally-foraged food in the local area. Sea Forager tours also helps you learn the art of how to spot edible goodies along the shoreline. You’ll learn how to cast nets, snare crabs and the extremely useful dos and don’ts of mussel-picking. Overlooking San Francisco’s scenic waterfront and many of the city’s key foraging spots is Hotel Vitale.
Num nums, South African wild berries similar to cranberries
Foraging is fast becoming a way of life in Cape Town. The city’s beaches are home to a range of wild rosemary, wild spinach and num nums – wild berries similar to cranberries. Sea Point Promenade is a popular foraging spot where you can delve into the local marine biodiversity, picking up sea urchins and sea lettuce from the bountiful rock pools. Stay at the Table Bay Hotel, amid the city’s top wild food spots.
**Before picking and eating (or even touching) anything you find growing in the wild it is vitally important to know what you are doing and to be able to identify correctly everything you find, for health and environmental reasons.