The farm-to-table movement has extended into urban foraging, as restaurant operators and chefs are venturing outdoors in search of ingredients naturally occurring in the environment.
New, natural ingredients can help you introduce interesting flavors into your dishes and serve items that patrons can’t find anywhere else. The purported nutritional benefits and distinctive tastes of wild foods will delight diners who want to diversify their diets. If you think a foray into foraging could benefit your operation, these tips can help you get started.
- The first step is to familiarize yourself with local plants and animals so you know how to spot anything out of the ordinary. Take precautions with bruises, powders and residues, which may be indicators of mold, mildew, pollutants, animal urine, debris, herbicides or pesticides.
- If you’re in a coastal location, explore the sea as well as the land to learn what marine life is native to the area and expand your sourcing options.
- To optimize the appeal of your new ingredients, find out which parts of each one are the most appetizing and whether they’re in season at a certain time of year.
- Use your menu to call attention to dishes that are made with locally sourced ingredients, whether mixed in or added as a garnish. When starting out, you could try out different options as weekly specials. As your ingredient base grows, you may want to revise your permanent menu to designate offerings that include foraged flavors.
- Consider inviting your customers and neighboring farmers to join the foraging fun. Patrons might be interested in bringing their own ingredients to add to dishes you’ve prepared, while local growers may be willing to put their homemade creations up for sale.
- If you’re interested in the end results of urban foraging, but you want to outsource the gathering process, hire a forager who will have both the time for and interest in searching for the perfect picks.
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Rockey, Daniel. Fine Dining Goes Wild: Dallas Chefs Turn to Nature to Forage for Ingredients, Dallas Observer, July 2017.
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13 reasons you need to start foraging, Healthista, August 2015.
Stephens, Regan. Asheville Chef Will Cook Your Foraged Foods for You—for Free, Food & Wine, May 2017.
Beals, Rachel Koning. How food foragers make $300 an hour digging in the dirt, MarketWatch, June 2016.