For Radmila Karlić, a day’s work means leading her dogs into the dense Motovun forest of Istria, Croatia, to hunt for truffles. She carries a small shovel, ready to dig up the edible treasures the dogs sniff at the roots of the towering oak trees. “Dogs can smell truffles when they’re 65 feet deep,” she explains.
Karlić brings the truffles back to her family’s home, where they’ll be cleaned and shipped off to one of the 450 restaurants that rely on her findings. But dining out on truffles can’t compare to joining her in the field—and then rewarding yourself with a post-hunt meal.
One of the best ways to get to know a place is through its food, and it’s increasingly easy for travelers to experience firsthand the foraging trend popularized by chefs like René Redzepi of Copenhagen’s Noma. We dug up an array of cooking schools, hotels and passionate locals offering tours that celebrate wild, fresh ingredients, whether over a two-hour sail or a weekend-long forest adventure.
“Foraging keeps you completely in the moment, connects you with the ecological web of life which we are all a part of but are mostly disconnected from, and fills a deep ancestral yearning,” says Caroline Davey, ecologist, forager and cook at the Fat Hen school in Cornwall, England. “The pleasure people get from then cooking a fantastic feast with these amazing ingredients all sourced within a few miles of Fat Hen is palpable.”
Similarly satisfying experiences await across the globe, from diving for conch in Turks and Caicos to picking herbs on the slopes of Devil’s Peak in Cape Town. After all, the appeal of wild food is universal and even innate.
As Alan Muskat, CEO of Asheville, North Carolina’s No Taste Like Home, puts it: “Ideal for people and the planet, wild food is healthier, fresher and more flavorful than its garden-variety descendants, and it’s all superfood because it’s what we evolved to eat."
With its medieval towns and bountiful rolling hills, Istria has been hailed as the next Tuscany. Foodies come for the truffles—some of the world’s finest—and can go hunting in the Motovun forest with a guide from Karlić, a family-run company whose dogs are trained to sniff out truffles hidden underground. Black truffles are available year-round, peaking in the summer, while the white variety turns up from September through December. The two-hour tours include an introduction to the history of truffle hunting and end with a light lunch, typically scrambled eggs and small bites that bring out the spotlight ingredient’s flavor. $42–$157 per person.
The colonial-era Mount Nelson Hotel, with nine acres of lawns, pools and rosebushes, offers guests three foraging experiences, hunting for black mussels, giant sea snails and seaweed on the Atlantic coast; edible plants, nuts and mushrooms in the mountain forest; or herbs like fennel, nettle and Cape sorrel on the slopes of Devil’s Peak. Afterward, guests return to the hotel to learn how to prepare and cook the ingredients alongside a chef. The package is offered year-round, though the pickings—especially for seafood—are most plentiful in the summer. $435 for two people.
Asheville, North Carolina
A tour with No Taste Like Home is a three-hour forest adventure, with lessons in cooking, medicine, ecology, folklore and crafting. It’s also a contribution to a good cause. Through its Afikomen Project, this first-of-its-kind nonprofit teaches foraging in schools, and whatever produce isn’t used by students’ families is sold at markets to fund the program. Tours run from mid-April to mid-October, and anytime by appointment. Expect to encounter 20 to 30 wild foods, including edible plants and mushrooms, with a focus on common ones you might find in your own backyard. Following the walk, the guide cooks up a picnic. $75 per person.
Oil is famously the moneymaker in the United Arab Emirates. Yet originally, it was the pearl oyster. The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr allows guests to relive that history with its Keep the Pearl package. Sail on a traditional wooden dhow boat through water banks, where pearl oysters cluster. A guide demonstrates how to gather and shuck oysters, with a pearl as a keepsake for each participant. Set an early wake-up call to spy wild flamingos and gray herons; evening sails let you watch the sunset. Approximately $517 per night, including a room, breakfast for two, complimentary access to the health club and pool and beach club, and the excursion.
Brooklyn, New York
Leda Meredith is a locavore legend. The author of several books on the subject, she subsists almost entirely on food grown or raised within 250 miles of Brooklyn. One of her most popular regular tours takes place in Prospect Park, from April to May and August through October. What’s in season changes every few weeks. In April, it’s spicy garlic mustard, rhubarb-like Japanese knotweed, bean-flavored redbud flowers, and leafy greens and root vegetables. May brings mulberries, wild spinach and linden blossoms. Meredith also gives tips on how to harvest, prepare and store these items. $20–$25 per person.
Cornwall Peninsula, England
The Fat Hen school, located in western England on the Cornwall peninsula, teaches how to cook what you’ve just foraged. Professional ecologists lead tours ranging from a two-hour walk to a gourmet foraging weekend. The most popular offering, Forage, Cook & Feast Day, includes a three-hour foraging outing followed by a three-hour hands-on cooking lesson to create a four-course meal using the found and other wild ingredients like rabbit, crab, pigeon, venison and locally caught fish and shellfish. While spring and autumn are the most abundant, there are wild ingredients to forage in every season. Winter, perhaps surprisingly, is the best time for salads. $145 per person.
Turks and Caicos
Sea conch is a mild local delicacy, served at both roadside stands and upscale restaurants. It’s prepared in numerous ways: burgers, chowder, sweet and sour, and deep fried in flour and spices for conch fritters. And luckily, it’s pretty easy to catch. For the curious, Caicos Dream Tours runs a Snorkel and Conch Cruise that combines a sail along the limestone cliffs of the Turks and Caicos cays with conch diving at Caicos Bank, where you can catch conch from the shallow ocean floor. Next, at the Half Moon Bay, staffers clean and prepare the catch to make a conch ceviche with onions, tomatoes, peppers and fresh lime juice. $89 per adult, plus tax.
Whether you try your luck with a fishing rod, hunt your own game or fowl, or forage for wild ingredients at The Lodge at Glendorn, executive chef Joseph Schafer will help you cook your haul in a private class. Spread over 1,500 acres, this rustic-luxe property neighbors the Allegheny National Forest. Spring and summer are the optimal foraging seasons; look for ramps and watercress in the spring, mushrooms in July and blackberries and ginseng in August. Fall is hunting season, with trips focusing on deer, turkey and pheasant. And trout fishing is available all year, as long as the rivers don’t freeze over. $75-$500 per person.
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