The recent foraging trend is nothing new to Kara Flynn. She spent her childhood reluctantly foraging for blackberries, dandelion greens and cardoons with her mother Mary Louise Gerlach. Similarly, Gerlach recalls her own father foraging for a variety of plants.
Flynn attributes her family’s love of foraging to their Sicilian roots. Foraging still plays a significant, if reduced, role in Italian culture, especially in rural areas. Foraged ingredients such as dandelion greens and wild mushrooms are dinner table staples in some parts of the country.
Increasingly, chefs in the U.S are putting foraged ingredients on their menus. They are following Chef René Redzepi who popularized the practice at Noma, his restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. Since earning two Michelin stars in 2008, the restaurant’s use of local and seasonal foraged ingredients has captured the culinary world’s attention.
The foraging trend is not limited to restaurant kitchens. From Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard to New York’s Central Park, foraging tours are becoming popular attractions for both tourists and locals. Led by an experienced guide, these tours teach would-be foragers how to identify wild plants. Urban dwellers across America forage for food under street lamps and stairwells.
Foraging, by its nature, is highly dependent on season and location. A forager in West Virginia might find a plethora of ramps, while someone in Vermont might instead stumble upon morel mushrooms. In Louisiana, pokeweed is a common find.
In the nooks and crannies of even the most crowded city, a wealth of wild ingredients waits to be discovered – and collected.
— Text by Casey Brand
— Video by Daniel McCollum
This dandelion pumpkin seed pesto pays tribute to the role of foraging in the Italian culture. Feel free to substitute other nuts and seeds (such as pine nuts) for the pumpkin seeds. This recipe was adapted from The Kitchn’s website.
- 3/4 cup unsalted hulled (green) pumpkin seeds
- 3 garlic gloves, minced
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 bunch dandelion greens (about 2 cups, loosely packed)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Black pepper, to taste
Heat the oven to 350 F.
Pour the pumpkin seeds onto a shallow-rimmed baking sheet and roast until just fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Pulse the pumpkin seeds and garlic together in the bowl of a food processor until very finely chopped.
Add Parmesan cheese, dandelion greens and lemon juice and process continuously until combined. Stop the processor every now and again to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The pesto will be very thick and somewhat difficult to process.
With the blade running, slowly pour in the olive oil and process until the pesto is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.