SLOW FORAGING. Why Is Food Not Food Anymore?

Do you like durum wheat pasta? Probably yes… But maybe you are a gluten-free person and prefer buckwheat, millet, or legumes. In beautiful Tramonti di Sopra (Friuli, Italy) my friends, Paolo and Roberto from Slow Food del Pordenonese, showed me Blecs, traditional Friulan buckwheat pasta (usually mixed with wheat). Delicious!

Manuel, a Pitina producer, and friend from Val Tramontina, showed me also a very special Friulan delicacy: sclopit. It grows also in Poland but is not considered food by my compatriots. Maria, also a friend from Tramonti di Sopra, showed me her risotto con sclopit. Lots of friends and food.

An example of foraged goods in May brings us many edible leaves from local trees and perennials which I eat raw, cooked, fried, or fermented

Whatever diet you have, whatever your preferences and locations are, you can always rely on foraged greens. How? Which? Where? When? Take it slow, it’s just another app worth of having – not necessarily in your mobile, but in your heart, mind, hands, and… mouth. Life-long learning is a true pleasure.

Where to begin?

First, you can learn to recognize plants. To start, you need to make basic decisions regarding location, season, time of day, means of transport, outfit and shoes, utensils and package, ways of processing. This is why we launch the Slow Foraging project: to gather seasoned and new foragers.

You can do Slow Foraging biking or walking and collect plant material for various meals, e.g. gołąbki (leaf rolls) or leaf soaked in batter and fried or baked

Second, you can learn to cook with what you forage. The simplest meal incorporating foraged plants is one of four that make hundreds of possibilities. If you stick only to recipes, you will be stuck without progress. It’s like learning ready phrases of a foreign language instead of understanding its structure and use it creatively in your own way. My recommendation is to start with making these four culinary forms of any foraged material and get experience and knowledge to experiment with these four. You will like this culinary freedom, free of stiff recipes, no precise amounts or numbers, but rather guiding to understand material and process. The crucial 4 are: 1 – pulp (not pesto, which is a registered Italian meal), 2 – soup, 3 – fritter, 4 – ferment.

Third, you can download our Slow Foraging Manual to go further with the information. We explain how to develop these 4 basic meals into hundreds of dishes, we list many common edible plants, share recipes, tips, and show differences between types of fermentation. Fermenting is what comes together – double F: Foraging + Fermenting. Forage respectfully with the local wildlife. When you bring home lots of leaves, flowers, fruits, roots, and seeds, process them into fermented food to enjoy year-round. And yes, you can forage all year long, too. Foraging cleans and changes your taste reminding what your ancestors used to eat. It’s more than satisfactory.

Leaves lactic fermentation is what we’ve been doing for thousands of years in Slavonic area, but we also lacto-ferment milk, the oldest worldwide (7500 y.ago) archaeological find of fermented remains

Foraging – a growing trend and urgently need

We’ll be truly happy when you join our new Slow Foraging Community. Forests and their edges, meadows, and rivers with riparian zones – have been humans’ homes for ages. It’s here, where we used to settle, where food was collected, created, and consumed in a common or ritual way. It’s here, where many humans don’t imagine what is edible, and – sadly – what is not food any more due to modern law.

Over half of humanity lives in urbanized areas, yet we cannot concentrate our life in towns any longer. We have to return to an extensive way of life and use of nature’s resources sustainably. Governments know they have to create both law and opportunities that encourage residents to settle in rural areas and use the land sustainably. The clue of the deurbanizing process is also to reenact knowledge of uncultivated plants and manufacture crafts. It is impossible for any of the western cultures to be based only on cultivation and agriculture, as it is being transformed into for the last two centuries, starting with the industrial revolution. Now billions of consumers are sort of blind tourists when they go hiking in the woods: they know how to use apps, but know nothing about using the species, bushcraft, and recipes.

n all my meals, I add edible weeds straight from our garden as a bread spread, raw salad, fermented food or chopped and added to noodle dough which makes 2 in 1 meal

It’s really not about survival, but rather about the everyday habit of eating what grows around. It’s so simple, yet so difficult. The word “wild” turns people away, for many it’s the opposite to safe, cultivated, controlled, predictable. In order to open our approach to spontaneous, free, open food, we have to switch from the wild to uncultivated and historical. People have to be legally able to collect what grows around. We need this education, not only from us – researchers, reenactors, chefs, consultants – but in schools and homes, starting from early childhood. An education we have lost.

Many folks are ashamed to forage. They link it to an unsafe, unstable life. Observers consider them low-income and unstable. Well, it’s not the case and it never was. In the 14th cent. the King of Poland had goutweed for dinner and it was not because of poverty. Over the years human mind created food taboo: negative connotation between edible plants and wartime, poverty, hunger, crop failures, danger. Foraging has always been opposition to cultivation, a pre-culture stage. Now it is the time when we can link these two strategies together to make them complementary.

The health benefits from eating foraged, good, clean, fair, local, fresh, free, spontaneous plants are very high to me based on laboratory research and traditional knowledge

Some people want to be hunters and foragers again. That’s what we do every day, with respect for nature and private and public priority, with respect for local indigenous peoples’ rights. Foraging plants, mushrooms, mollusks, or insects, and using them in conjunction with cultivated food could increase the biodiversity in our diets, and help the environment. We launched the Slow Foraging project, starting from our convivial contribution to this special edition of Terra Madre Salone del Gusto.

I encourage friends, students, and readers to forage and to raise awareness. We have free food everywhere. A forager is not a freak, a poor person, a public outsider, but wise, respectful use of the best local slow food we have. It connects our cultures and makes us different, also in a microbial way. Double F strategy should be our way for the upcoming decades.

Each time when I’m in Tramonti di Sopra I forage local herbs to enjoy this food together with my Friulan friends

The Slow Foraging project is a way of socializing, connected with exposure to those beneficial wild microorganisms: yeasts, fungi, and bacteria, including the “happiness bacteria” (Myccobacterium vaccae). If it’s made each day, it brings back our microbiota: the best way to feed your sourdough is to put it into a clean meadow, forest, or hedgerow.

In case of any doubts, e-mail us: slowfooddolnyslask(at)

Anna Maria Ruminska
architect, cultural and food anthropologist, culinary reenactor & curator, chef forager & consultant

Slow Food Dolny Śląsk[1] Convivium, Poland + Chwastozercy – Ancient Food Poland[2]

Photo edition/credit: Anna M. Ruminska SF Dolny Slask

[1] Facebook: slowfooddolnyslask, Instagram: slowfooddolnyslask

[2] Facebook: chwastozercy, Instagram: chwastozercy_ancientfoodpoland, Gumroad: chwastozercy

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