A new emerging trend is foraging for foods that can be used imaginatively to create new flavours, all whilst being sustainable and environmentally conscious. Searching and collecting for your own foods sounds idyllic, however it requires the utmost creativity from the chef to utilise what is harvested and produce a dish with complimentary flavours. Despite sounding niche, it is becoming more commonplace in the out of home markets like restaurants. In recent research, 53% of UK consumers said they find the idea of seeing foraged finds on menus appealing. Foraging for food in nature means it is much purer and delectable, as the wild ingredients have different accents and aromas in comparison to their equivalents. Understandably, foraged ingredients are less exposed to harmful chemicals, with the earthier flavours adding layers of complexity to dishes. We have been seeing a rise in awareness around the mass production of foods and the damaging affects it has on the environment, as well as the implications of plastic packaging and chemicals, resulting in foraged foods gaining more interest. However, foraging for foods does not come without its complexities as there are ethics and rules that should be considered.
- You must check for legalities in your area, understanding laws and regulations around where is legal to gather plants and mushrooms, as sometimes permits are required.
- Understanding where is categorised as “clean” areas; avoiding city parks, roadsides, and property lines as this is where pollutants and contaminants are.
- Ethics in foraging require you to be conservative in your harvest only gathering a maximum of one third of any patch as well as leaving nature as good, if not better than you found it.
Considering all this requires planning and depth of consideration, making it slightly idealistic for operators in hospitality. The answer is not to just buy in ‘foraged’ ingredients from an external supplier, as you are unknowing to the ethics and the practicalities, they used in their harvest process. With the idea of foraging being relatively new to the food and drink trend, understandably it is unreasonable to ask for operators to integrate foraged ingredients throughout their whole menus. It requires planning and resources that simply may not be available. However, considering incorporating a ‘seasonal foraged dish’ as a starting point, would in turn excite chefs allowing them to be creative, as well as enticing consumers in with demonstrating sustainability efforts. Consumers have identified foraged blackberries as a top choice to be seen on menus, closely followed by wild garlic and blackcurrants. Any of these three would be a reasonable starting point whether it is blackberries in a cocktail, wild garlic as the base of a main course or blackcurrants in a dessert.
With discussions about the future of hospitality, artificial intelligence and technology are being mentioned more and more. Technology is advancing at a rapid rate, with the future looking like we can delegate certain less desirable or menial tasks to artificial intelligence, freeing up employees to do the more skilful roles within hospitality. That begs the question as to whether AI could be used in foraging processes in the future. Would utilising AI in harvesting foraged foods enable operators to become more sustainable all whilst being cost effective?