Creative Wellington forager Johanna Knox reflects the year and examines why gathered ingredients have become such a popular additions to meals.
As 2020 draws to a close, something feels hopeful. For the past 18 months I’ve had more people contacting me to ask about foraging than ever before. Their questions range from asking whether I still run workshops or know anyone who does, to whether there’s a local foraging group in their area, to whether I can identify a weed they’ve noticed in their neighbourhood, and is there anything useful about it?
Sometimes I don’t know the answers, but I’m always happy to get the questions. They affirm something important: that in times of trouble, many of us instinctively turn back to the natural world, knowing we need to rebuild our relationship with it.
The last time I saw such a resurgence of interest in foraging was around 2008. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth had landed not long before as a gut punch for climate-change awareness, and then the global financial crisis hit. I hadn’t foraged in earnest since I was much younger, but I turned back to it and it became an emotional necessity.
There are many pathways into foraging, and I think there’s always a way to build it into your life. For me, it’s never been an all-or-nothing thing. I’m in awe of people who have the skills to go to the coast or bush and find all they need for a meal right there, but I’m more about eclecticism, which often means adding gathered ingredients to pantry staples. It’s a fascinating way to bring extra flavour, individuality and nutrition to your dishes, and foraged ingredients have other virtues, too, like zero packaging.
Above all though, the fact remains that foraging is about connection. It can be a vehicle for connecting with family and friends when you go gathering together, as well as a way to weave yourself back into the land and environment.
Many New Zealanders like to spend our summers doing exactly those things, so here’s one small offering: some ideas for how you can build foraging into your celebratory meals. These recipes are all vegan, but they can be adapted if you’d like to add a little dairy as well: