I vividly recall a foraging trip that I went on a few years back when I was living in Ireland. We spent the day with a couple of local guides, foraging along a beach, thirty minutes or so outside of Dublin. I remember walking along the beach, and one of the guides would point to a plant and exclaim, “this is edible.” A few steps further, he pulled a plant out of the ground, “wild carrots, these are edible.” Several varieties of seaweed washed ashore, “These are edible.” Then we came to a marshy area where these little, green succulent looking things were sprouting out of the ground; samphire (aka Salicornia, sea asparagus, sea beans), which is intensely salty, briny, and crispy. Edible (and delicious). Hidden in plain sight, waiting for a keen eye and an adventurous palate.
It’s incredible and magical what mother nature provides when we open ourselves up to discovering new things and are mindful of our everyday world. Johnna Holmgren’s Tales from a Forager’s Kitchen is just that, a journey of discovery, a forager’s manifesto. At the heart of this manifesto is a belief in nature and a mindset that something can be beautiful if you just open your eyes, see it, taste it, and experience it. Having a foragers’ mindset requires a respect, deep appreciation, and curiosity for nature and the rhythm of the seasons, and what they provide. Eating locally reflects an understanding and acceptance that there is a time, place, and season for everything.
Morel mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, stinging nettle, and wild ramps pop up in early spring, a welcoming signal of spring’s arrival. Common garden weeds such as dandelions, which are shunned and rejected on most lawns, provide superior nourishment — roots, leaves, flowers and all. When foraged in early spring or late autumn, at their optimal peak of season, dandelion greens are less bitter; while, their roots, get better with age. Purslane, another common weed, that is ubiquitous and thrives in poor soil, in cracks in the sidewalk, and in corners of garden beds, is also abundantly nutritious — high in iron, vitamins A, vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, and omega-3 fatty acids, with a mildly tart, lemony bite.
Of course, make sure you are 100% certain that what you’ve foraged is, in fact, suitable for consumption. Some plants may just give you an upset stomach, but others can be dangerous, even deadly. Once you properly identify a plant, be sure to take only what you plan on consuming; demonstrate gratitude by leaving the rest for others, the land, animals, and next year’s crop. At its core, foraging is about caring for the planet and harvesting responsibly.
Tales from a Forager’s Kitchen will teach you what you need to be a forager, including how to tap a maple tree and boil its sap, catch wild yeast for baking bread, and make compost tea. While foraging, in its most traditional sense, is experienced in the wild, you can still be a forager if you live in an urban environment. You can be a forager at a farmers’ market or even at a grocery store, hunting and gathering for new experiences and ingredients. Make it your mission to seek out a new ingredient to experiment with at home in your kitchen.
For example, dried reishi mushroom powder is a wild mushroom that can be found at health food stores and online. Reishi possesses antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and immunity enhancing properties and adds intense nourishment to your morning cup of coffee. To make reishi mushroom coffee, all you need is whole organic milk, strong coffee or espresso, vanilla bean, and reishi mushroom powder — heated and whisked until nice and frothy. Enjoy it steaming hot or even poured over ice in warmer months.
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Frothed Reishi Mushroom Latte
Organic reishi mushroom powder can be purchased at many herb stores and online for around $27 for a full pound, which would last quite a long time! Reishi is antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and incredible for the immune system. This comes to roughly 35 cents extra per morning latte and provides around 77 days of intense nourishment to the morning cup of coffee.
1⁄2 cup organic whole milk
1⁄2 cup strong brewed
coffee or espresso
(can substitute black
or green tea)
1 teaspoon reishi
1 vanilla bean
In a pan, bring the milk, coffee or espresso, and mushroom powder to a bubble. Gently slice the vanilla bean down the center and peel open. Scrape out the raw vanilla beans and whisk them into the pan. Continue whisking for a few minutes, then pour into a mug to enjoy.
Images and recipes courtesy of Rodale, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright 2018 by Johnna Holmgren from Tales from a Forager’s Kitchen.