May 9, 2022 - Things to Do

Minnesota's urban foraging movement blooms

Illustration of an upward arrow made out of mushrooms.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

To turn dandelions into a delicious snack, Tim Clemens encourages you to think like a rabbit.

Driving the bites: As a member of the Twin Cities' growing foraging community, Clemens teaches nature-loving locals how to find β€” and eat β€” edible plants in their own backyards.

  • In the case of dandelions, starting with the stem, before you "conveyor belt the whole thing," leaves you with the lasting taste of a sweet flower instead of bitter greens.

The big picture: Collecting mushrooms, weeds and other edible vegetation in the wild is by no means new. The tradition has deep roots, including in Native culture, and has long been a celebrated pastime for chefs and nature-loving foodies.

  • But its popularity has blossomed in recent years. A desire to get outdoors during the pandemic has driven even more interest, Clemens, who runs Ironwood Foraging, tells Axios.

Why you should try it: It's hard to get more local (and sustainable) food than items harvested from our local forests, parks and trails.

Plus: It's a thrill! Think of it like a scavenger hunt where the prize is a delicious, nutritious treat.

  • "The excitement around finding a patch of morel mushrooms is like, it's like gold," Twin Cities restaurateur Charlie Broder tells Axios of family foraging outings. "And you don't tell anybody where you found it."

The intrigue: The changing nature of our nature means even veteran foragers can find themselves surprised β€” and delighted β€” by their bounties.

  • Hope Flanagan, a Native teacher and storyteller who got her first taste as a young girl helping elders gather plants, looks forward each year to "spring ephemerals" that grow for just about two weeks before the trees have leaves.
  • "It's like seeing relatives that you don't get to see all year-round... They're beautiful, generous plants that are all full of food and nutrition and medicine and all kinds of things," says Flanagan, who promotes foraging as a way to help Native folks connect with their roots through her work at Dream of Wild Health.

What to watch: Interest from chefs at the helm of some of the world's top restaurants, including Denmark's Noma and Owamni here in Minneapolis, is bringing even more attention to the practice.

But, but but: Foraging experts stressed the need to gather with sustainability in mind. Over-harvesting threatens to throw local ecosystems out of balance.

Be smart: Want to give it a try? Turn to a trusted resource or human guide to make sure you're foraging in a safe and responsible way.


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