90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Foraging Fever

Jacki Lyden in for Tom Ashbrook

Foraging fever. From the woods to cracks in the pavement, the search for edible delights.

Foraging for food is becoming increasingly popular. (Holly Heyser)

Foraging for food is becoming increasingly popular. (Holly Heyser)

Bladderwrack on the beach. Chicken of the Woods. Purslane, Sheeps Sorrel. Are we hungry yet? Foraging has become cachet internationally as we pursue the overlooked bounty of nature in ditches, meadows and backyards.

Elderberry wine is one thing. But cooking stinging nettles, mashing up acorns, boiling up burdock ? More and more high end restaurants have professional foragers on staff, foraging classes have grown, and we explore from Denmark’s coast to British woods to a patch of ground near you.

This hour, On Point: Foraging. Gathering. And consuming it.

-Jacki Lyden


Jane Kramer, staff writer at The New Yorker, her article in this week’s issue of The New Yorker is The Food at Our Feet:  Why is Foraging All the Rage?

Hank Shaw, and author of Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast.

David Craft, an urban forager for five years. He’s the author of Urban Foraging: Finding and Eating Wild Plants in the City.

From The Reading List

The Washington Post “We aren’t even 20 feet down my street when Hank Shaw stops to pick up one of the thousands of little brown nuts a neighbor’s tree dropped earlier that week.”

The New Yorker “I wasn’t the first throwback on the block. The pursuit of wild food has become so fashionable a subject in the past few years that one eater.com blogger called this the era of the “I Foraged with René Redzepi Piece.” Redzepi is the chef of Noma, in Copenhagen (otherwise known as the best restaurant in the world). More to the point, he is the acknowledged master scavenger of the Nordic coast. I’ll admit it. I wanted to forage with Redzepi, too.”

Hank Shaw’s Blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook “I write. I fish. I dig earth, forage, raise plants, live for food and kill wild animals. I drink bourbon, Barolo or Budweiser with equal relish and wish I owned a farm, or at least a large swath of land I could play on.”

David Craft’s Urban Foraging Blog “It’s Kousa Dogwood season and this is a good year for them. After stats class at Harvard last night (which I am barely following, but I find the nerd level entertaining) I noticed a great kousa (there are lots in Harvard yard) right next to my bike so I loaded up.”



Japanese Knotweed Hot Pickles

1 part vinegar

1 part water

Bring this to a boil and add some pickling spices and salt. I like whole black peppercorns and red pepper flakes.

Add enough tender knotweed (first couple weeks of growth, whole stalk; after that, just the top section that easily breaks off) so that it is just covered. Remove from the flame. It does not need to cook at all, just being plunged in the boiling water vinegar solution is fine.

Put into sterilized mason jars. Ready for consumption as soon as they cool off! Great in salads.


Elderflower Ice Cream

Elderflower ice cream is a subtly flavored ice cream that you have to smell to really appreciate. It is equally good with fresh or dried elderflowers, although if you use dried elderflowers you should make sure they are not too old — old flowers begin to smell musty. I also add a little elderflower syrup, too, but you can skip this if you want.

Make sure that if you use fresh elderflowers to remove all the stems. Most dried elderflowers already have their stems removed.

Makes about 1 quart

Prep Time: 12 hours, most of it inactive

Cook Time: 20 minutes

* 2 cups heavy cream
* 2 cups whole milk
* 1/2 cup dried elderflowers, or 1 cup fresh
* 1/4 cup elderflower syrup (optional)
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 4-5 egg yolks

1. Heat the cream, milk, sugar and elderflowers in a heavy pot set over medium heat. Bring to 160 degrees — steaming, but not simmering — and turn off the heat. Stir in the elderflower syrup, if using. Cover and allow to cool to room temperature, and then pour into a container and allow to steep overnight, or at least 6 hours.
2. Pour the cream mixture back into a pot and bring back to 160 degrees. Put the egg yolks into a bowl and get a whisk and a ladle. Temper the eggs by slowly whisking in a ladle of the hot cream mixture, then another. Pour the tempered egg yolks into the cream mixture and allow to heat for 5-10 minutes. Do not let this simmer.
3. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve and cool once again. Pour into your ice cream maker and follow its directions.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://www.vikingfence.com/chain_link_fencing.html Vhien@Chain Link Fence Austin

    After seeing him eating this fruit, maybe I would try to do so if I see this king of tree on the street. Thanks for the edible information!

  • kaybee63

    Yeah – I’ve tried those kousa berries……overrated.  Solomon’s seal flower buds on the other hand are pretty tasty.


    Total NPR topic.

    • Anonymous

      Actually it’s very American. To bad you have lost the ability to understand this. That’s the real issue, not knowing how to find fiddle-heads. 

    • Taguba

      NPR topic? Sounds pretty Emersonian to me — self-reliance! Now isn’t that something even FOX News is supposed to get behind?

  • Peter

    Growing up in VT, I remember cooking up fiddle-heads my dad and I found along the Browns River in the springtime – we’d sautee them in butter with a dash of salt. It was always exciting to eat something that you found, even if it tasted like spinach!

  • Anonymous

    If the Republicans keep blocking the jobs bill, we will be eating like this soon.

  • Michiganjf

    I took a three week hiking and fishing trip to Maroon Bells and Whitewater Widerness Area in Colorado with a friend who had been going to the area every summer with his family since he was a kid.

    As we hiked around and did some fly-fishing, my friend Mike would crack open pine cones for the pignolas inside (pine nuts), pick at various plants and eat them, and most amazing to me, he found wild strawberries everywhere.

    These wild strawberries were tiny compared to the store bought varieties, but each tiny wild berry had the flavor of ten large conventional strawberries packed into a fruit the size of the tip of my pinky finger. Absolutely astounding.

    Ever since, I’ve been left wondering if all modern varieties of fruits and vegetables have sacrificed that degree of flavor for the size and quantity desired by modern food producers.

    I’d love to pick up this kind of foraging as a hobby!

  • Elias

    This is all very well and good, but in a world of 7 billion plus people is there any way foraging can be sustainable if wild foods catch on to any real degree? Or is this just a recipe to wipe out wild species that have the misfortune of being delicious, just as we have pushed most of the flavorful species of the ocean to the brink of extinction?

    • Drew You Too

      Don’t Panic! lol

      I hope everyone does start foraging. There’s a great book about one of the less romanticized aspects of foraging: Death. Read Into The Wild, or better yet don’t, then get to foraging everyone!


      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Wildman-Steve-Brill/1132497100 Wildman Steve Brill

        If foraging is so dangerous, how have I been leading hundreds of tours throughout the Greater NY area for adults and kids every year since 1982 with no casualties, but a lot more interest in enjoying renewable resources and protecting non-renewables? Would you discourage driving because someone raced down the highway in a car without the slightest knowledge of driving, the approach the subject of Into the Wild took toward survivalism? For anyone open-minded and interested in learning more about the subject, please check out my site, http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com, or download my app, http://tinyurl.com/6zcnuna from the iTunes Store.

        • Drew You Too

          I wasn’t saying foraging is dangerous and intended no disrespect to those who do it as a hobby or, even more importantly, those for whom it is a way of life. My remark was soley directed towards Elias who seemed to be panicing that if more people began to forage for food it would decimate or even erradicate resources. I realize that my comment was on the sarcastic side and apologize for any offense you took, there was none intended.

      • Anonymous

        First off there is huge difference between picking fiddle-heads and crab apples and the Christopher McCandless story.

        That kid was not to bright and unprepared for the wilderness of Alaska. He starved to death because he did not know how to survive.
        The fact that he ate a poisonous plant by mistake says more about his lack of understanding what he was up against.
        Dick Proenneke lived in the wilds of Alaska and built his own cabin from scratch. He smoked his moose and deer meat and fished.when you know what your doing you survive. This man did well into his 80′s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYJKd0rkKss

        • Drew You Too

          I am aware of Dick Proenneke and admire his choice of lifestyle deeply. In fact, it is closer to the way I live than contemporary urban living. I gave both you and Wildman Steve Brill a like for your excellent comments. The responses are what I get (and deserve) for being a smart a$$, but look at the good information that resulted.


  • Carynk1

    Alix Kates Shulman wrote a terrific book about foraging (and a lot of other things) in Drinking the Rain, in which she describes a period ((a winter?) of solitude in a cottage off the coast of Maine.  When she saw what food would be available to purchase in the little general store, she decided to live from what she could forage–periwinkles, sea vegetables and more.  It’s also a book about separating from a marriage and being with herself, as well as about trying to hold on to what she’d learned when she returned to her life in NYC.

  • Greenmeliss

     I forage, have since 1986 in high school in suburban Northern CA.  For me, I think it is about establishing a sense of place is a world that looks the similar coast to coast. 

  • Graham gerdeman

    I’m not able to call in, but I wish the host or guests would discuss the legality of foraging. Is it actually legal to remove plants from state and national forests? I’m pretty sure it isn’t. The caller who said her family stops and removes grape leaves from various fence rows is surely taking that from private property, right? Is it just a matter of disagreeing with the law, or is it  in fact perfectly legal to take from public property? Or is it something that’s not enforced and we choose to ignore it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hank-Shaw/545853656 Hank Shaw

      Graham: The answer is, “it depends.” Anything labeled “nature preserve” is likely off-limits to foraging, and most state parks have pretty severe restrictions. But state and federal forest or BLM land is OK to forage for personal consumption. In some cases you need to tell the rangers and get a (usually free) permit, but so long as you are not doing it commercially, you are usually OK. 

      Municipal parks all have their own rules, and many (like Central Park in NYC) forbid foraging. You just have to know the rules where you plan to go.


  • Russ Cohen

    I’ve been leading foraging walks here in New England since 1974 and for most of that time my walks appealed to a small but enthusiastic group.  I must admit that I’m worried about foraging apparently hitting the “big time”, not so much from folks picking for themselves and sharing with family/friends, but market-driven foraging, where people are converting wild edibles to cash as they sell to high-end restaurants and produce markets.  I myself have observed patches of ramps (wild leeks) completely disappear from places where they formerly grew, because they were dug up en masse and sold.  I have been trying to encourage people not to dig up whole ramp plants but just pick one leaf per plant and leave the bulb alone as a more sustainable way to harvest the plant.

    Although my foraging programs are done for this year, I will be eventually posting my programs for 2012 at http://users.rcn.com/eatwild/sched.htm

    – Russ Cohen

    • Sjaj12

      Russ, they should have interviewed you!

      • Tanya Turner

        I agree!! I’ve been been on two of Russ’ walks and as a foraging expert, he does a great job of encouraging and educating from all angles. Neither his walks nor book neglect important issues of sustainablity in foraging. I am also so glad foraging is experiencing a revival but I’m also weary of the commercialism of it. Let’s keep this dialogue going!

  • http://iphone.acmetech.com/ Wayne

    I lived in Europe for a number of years, and I recall hearing that in France, you can walk into most any pharmacy with a bag of mushrooms and the pharmacist can identify the ones that shouldn’t be ingested. Don’t know if it’s true, but always thought that sounded wonderful. We have a comprehensive mushroom identification book, but I have never had much success trying to completely locate which a particular specimen is among the various similar ones. Chicken/Hen of the Woods we do know, and enjoy often.

  • Jvaughan5

    I’ve been collecting wild mushrooms for many years in the United States. Discovering a fresh crop of honey mushrooms, black chanterelles, or chicken of the woods, etc., on a walk through the forest is a special thrill that is hard to match. And they taste so good. Seems like many Americans are put off by mushroom collecting, perhaps due to fears of getting sick, I found that many europeans and asians are not. I guess more for me…

  • homegrown

    Quote from a Vermont dairy farmer to his son as they are eatig a meal of morel mushrooms and venison, “wonda’what the rich are eating tonight.” 

  • Alabamapostalworker

    Isn’t this Newt’s plan for the average American household to make ends meet?

    • Anonymous

      Well the real plan is to move the poor near or on garbage dumps, and have them forage for scrapes. Hello third world.

  • Carol Voigts

    I live in northern Michigan where I was raised foraging. At 70, I still gather the mustard greens, dandelion flowers/leaves/roots, the elderflowers, and berries, the huckleberries, the nettle, the stump mushrooms of which I have a couple dozen quarts in the freezer, the wild strawberries, the chicory, which I roast.  I remember the cranberries on the shore at the cottage long ago as a child.  My car always has a bucket or two so that I can gather the wild apples in the fall, the rose hips.  I esp. love the day lily shoots in the spring at old long forgotten homesteads.  We had a friend when I was little who would bring us wild honey.  I make my own salves each year out of comfrey or elderflower, and make liver tonics out of dandelion root.  Once in a while I find an old farm that has an ancient quince tree loaded with the fruit. If I stop and ask, often they will let me have a shopping bag full.  I know of another old place where they still have transparent apples, which they just let fall so I gather them for the best applesauce in the world and dried apples too. We never called the wild onion “ramps” up here but we made great chowder with those and fresh water mussels in the spring.

  • Patrick

    Get rid of Jackie Lyden!

  • Tanya Turner

    Found a blog about those bluebells that were discussed by a caller: http://wildfoodgirl.com/2010/stalking-bluebells-through-the-wild-food-literature/#more-7

  • Wally Walnut

    Great year for black walnuts here in southern Wisconsin. Made my own healthy trail mix which consists of black walnut pieces,Cheerios,raisins, and dark chocolate toll house morsels. All pretty healthy foods indeed

  • Melinda Goodick

         I note where I see elderflowers in the spring, so I’ll know where to gather the berries later on.  Unfortunately, the best spots Iknow for elderberries are on the inside of the loop of cloverleafs of local highways.  Even if I could get to them, I’d question what they might have drawn from that soil. 
        I consider my garden to produce more than just the plants I put in n purpose.  I love harvesting the lambsquarters and purslane, too.  If you hunt, you can find purslane seed to put in the garden- great vegetable, but that isn’t foraging.  In Mexico and Turkey, it is planted as a vegetable and sold in the markets.  One man’s trash….
        My husband and I have a standoff each spring, as I ask him to hold off mowing the lawn until I have all the violets I want. 

Sep 2, 2014
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with Mark Wilson, event political speaker chairperson, with his wife Elain Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 4, 2012. (AP)

Nine weeks counting now to the midterm elections. We’ll look at the key races and the stakes.

Sep 2, 2014
Confederate spymaster Rose O'Neal Greenhow, pictured with her daughter "Little" Rose in Washington, D.C.'s Old Capitol Prison in 1862. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

True stories of daring women during the Civil War. Best-selling author Karen Abbott shares their exploits in a new book: “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.”

Sep 1, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) in the second quarter of the NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

One outspoken fan’s reluctant manifesto against football, and the big push to reform the game.

Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: August 29, 2014
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

On hypothetical questions, Beyoncé and the unending flow of social media.

More »
Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

More »
Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

More »
1 Comment