On Monday, BBC News aired a newscast called “Foraging: Damaging our woodlands?” about how the UK’s commercial foragers are disrupting the delicate ecosystems of Britain’s forests by harvesting too much.
Commercial foragers told the BBC it’s in their interest to harvest responsibly and sustainably, but at the same time more plants = more money. Would these profitable businesses willingly quit if the ecosystem started shows sign of stress? It seems like a conflict of interest.
Here in the U.S., commercial foraging is only just taking flight, led by a San Francisco-based company called ForageSF, which in June was reported by Time magazine to sell the wild plants they harvest at a market with 2,000 customers. ForageSF also puts on “underground” $100-per-plate wild food dinners.
Iso Rabins, head of ForageSF, says the company harvests sustainably. I reached out to him to find out exactly how they do that, and our interview is forthcoming. As a forager in Portland, I sometimes have trouble finding substantial amounts of wild food I feel comfortable harvesting, especially with the standard only-take-20%-of-a-stand rule. So I’m quite curious to know how the Bay Area wilderness can withstand that level of impact.
Interestingly, when I asked well-known foraging educators John Kallas of Portland and Steve Brill of NYC what they thought about the trend, both said they’re not worried.
“People can pick [weeds] til the cows come home and its not going to hurt the environment,” Kallas said. And as for native wild plants? If “people go out and harvest everything they see – they clearcut – that is a problem,” but on the other hand, Kallas said, “The restaurants will find pretty quickly that they can’t get a good, regular supply.”
Brill said something similar: Restaurants sometimes ask him to teach their staff how to forage for food sources, but once trained, they “never follow through, mainly because it’s much more labor-intensive than just ordering food from their suppliers.”
Are you concerned about commercial foraging? Or do you welcome it?
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