Valeria Mosca, one of the leading experts in foraging, reveals the secrets of going to the mountains in search of edible plants and herbs, much loved by star chefs
Go to the mountains in search of wild food, from mushrooms to lichens to classic red fruits and wild herbs. Today it is called foraging, but the practice, of course, has been well known since the dawn of time. Even without having precise rules, foraging is in fact based onalimurgia, an ancient science that studies the use of wild plants to overcome times of famine. To find out more, we consulted the herbalist and biotechnologist Valeria Margherita Moscow founder in 2010 of Wood * ing Wild Food Lab which deals with foraging both from the point of view of the study and use of food and from that of dissemination and teaching.
Are foraging and sport an inseparable pair?
“To go to the mountains or to reach less polluted natural areas you have to walk, sometimes even a lot. Training and ability to move in nature they are therefore important, at least as the ability to recognize plant species. I love very much, for example, walking towards the village of Cheneil, in Valle d’Aosta, a place in itself stupendous and complete with a view of the Matterhorn. There is no need to detach yourself from the paths, you just need to know where to look and what to look for. Here, among other things, some types of lichens are collected (in Italy there are about four thousand of them) which can be transformed into flour useful for making bread, as explained in several ancient recipes. There is always a place in the backpack since the quantities collected must be minimal, respecting the environment “.
What do you need to know as a basis for doing foraging correctly?
“First of all, a course should be followed that not only explains what to collect and how to use it correctly, but also the right system to collect it without causing damage. Foraging is strictly linked to environmental protection: in this sense we are also committed to institutional projects with Legambiente and the DAVIS University of San Francisco, just to name two. Those who go into the woods must know what to take or what not to touch, two similar plants can be one edible and the other toxic, so you have to be very careful and prepared. Knowledge of the environment is essential to avoid very dangerous situations. This is why we organize “on the field” courses among woods and paths also with the support of local guides. One of the last books I published, Learn the art of foraging, illustrates the first rudiments of how to relate correctly and respectfully to the natural environment. It is a first step towards this way of knowing food and getting it without going through the classic distribution channels ”.
What outlets can the practice of foraging give?
“We start from the concept that foraging brings us back to the woods with a new perspective, bringing us back into balance with the ecosystem. From here, projects such as Thinking like a forest, already built in several mountain pastures and now at Roggione in Valmalenco above the Palù lake. We took an abandoned site to transform it into a farm with an avant-garde cut: here we will focus on ancient products but with a new culture flanked by modern studies and laboratory research. A business that has found an excellent market in the kitchens of starred chefs. All this leads to a repopulation of areas that were abandoned, to the blocking of the advancement of the wood in the grazing areas, to the restraint of weeds, to the recovery of mountain pastures. It is a business model with good prospects. And that also renders a service to hikers who can take advantage of the maintenance of the paths carried out by the new mountaineers ”.
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August 15 – 10:53
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