November 2014. Written as an Editorial Researcher for Lexicon of Sustainability.
In addition to lowering food waste and reducing miles nutrients must travel, another benefit of foraging is the ‘back to the land’ mind set so pervasive in its followers. As a reaction against the overly processed foods lining grocery shelves, foraging celebrates the simplicity of a humble plant that has been lovingly harvested and prepared.
While many may think of rural spaces when it comes to foraging, increasingly urban dwellers are finding usable ingredients flourishing alongside high rises. Urban foraging is flourishing in large cities such as New York, Chicago and L.A., where committed residents are determined to reduce food miles in innovative ways.
A great example comes out of L.A. in the form of FORAGE, a Silver Lake restaurant owned by Chef Jason Kim. In addition to sourcing produce and meat from local farmer’s markets, Kim also invites the community to share any extra harvest with the restaurant to be incorporated into the daily-changing menu.
“I just thought it would be cool if our restaurant didn’t have to buy from the big growers, if we just told our neighbors, ‘Hey, bring in your produce,” Kim says. The concept not only encourages community engagement, but helps ensure fresh local food is being enjoyed without the threat of waste.
Forage consistently espouses the approach to seasonality that must be embraced when undertaking urban foraging: after receiving a bumper crop of figs from the local community, Kim simply created more fig dishes to celebrate their growing season. “I don’t see this as a problem. I think that’s what it should be about. When figs are good and plentiful, we should be celebrating the fact that we have an abundance of them for the brief time of year that we do,” he says.
A further benefit of the urban foraging movement is the ability to enjoy the freshness of the harvest: since opening Forage, Kim says his cooking style has become more simplified. ‘’Instead of manipulating ingredients or depending on crazy techniques, I find myself appreciating the way a solid minimal approach can bring out the maximum flavour possible. It helps having access to quality ingredients.’’
Forage’s menu changes daily and can be found on their website.