The COVID-19 pandemic had an unexpected side effect—more and more people are foraging for wild foods.
Foraging can be a simple, often sustainable, and safe way to engage with nature and increase dietary diversity. But experts warn that foragers should be cautious and keep the health of the planet in mind. Unsustainable foraging practices can harm the environment and inexperienced foragers may inadvertently gather dangerous or inedible wild foods.
Many foragers are using platforms like social media, workshops, and books to educate people on safe foraging practices.
As lawyer and forager Tama Matsuoka Wong tells Food Tank, “Foraging is an experience to enjoy. You get rewarded with good food on top of it…. There is always something to learn in the face of nature.”
Here are Food Tank’s picks for 20 foragers teaching safe and sustainable foraging practices and making a difference!
1. Billie Alexandria, New York, United States
Billie Alexandria is an herbalist, doula, and chef with a personal catering service providing locally foraged food to the upstate New York community. Alexandria helps individuals and communities engage with nature through foraging tutorials and cooking demonstrations on Instagram. As a Black and trans person, Alexandria hopes to show the BIPOC community that foraging can be a powerful method to reclaim identity and connect to the natural world.
2. Pascal Baudar, California, United States
Belgian-born writer and naturalist Pascal Baudar brings wild foods into the highest echelons of modern cuisine. Baudar hosts foraging workshops throughout Los Angeles and serves as a foraging consultant to the city’s most celebrated chefs as well as cooking shows. Pascal has written several Amazon bestselling foraging books and was named one of the 25 most influential tastemakers in Los Angeles in 2014 by Los Angeles Magazine.
3. Alan Bergo, Minnesota, United States
After years cooking in numerous Minnesota-based restaurants, Chef Alan Bergo quit the restaurant world in 2016 to focus solely on foraging and developing recipes with wild ingredients. Bergo maintains an encyclopedic database of wild foods and recipes on his website Forager Chef. Bergo synthesizes his extensive research and most popular recipes in the book The Forager Chef’s Book of Flora: Recipes and Techniques for Edible Plants from Garden, Field, and Forest.
4. Diego Bonetto, New South Wales, Australia
Italian-born environmental artist Diego Bonetto works to revive Indigenous Australian foraging practices. Bonetto hosts foraging workshops in New South Wales, Australia and collaborates with chefs, herbalists, environmentalists, and cultural workers to promote environmental health. In 2013, Bonetto helped create Wild Food Map—an open-source web program to identify and document wild foods and medicinal plants throughout Australia. As founder of the online Wildfood.store marketplace, Bonetto provides wild harvested produce to the Sydney catering industry.
5. Dr. Ava Chin, New York, United States
Dr. Ava Chin is an Associate Professor of Creative Nonfiction at the City University of New York who promotes urban foraging through journalism. Chin documented her experience foraging in New York’s urban spaces through a former column in The New York Times called “Urban Forager.” She also writes about foraging in the M.F.K. Fisher Award-winning book Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal. In 2016, Chin earned a Fulbright Scholarship to lecture on food journalism and conduct research in China.
6. Neftalí Durán, Massachusetts, United States
Indigenous chef, advocate, educator, and community organizer Neftalí Durán works to build an equitable food system by reviving Indigenous culinary traditions. Durán co-founded the I-Collective, an Indigenous advocacy organization that promotes Indigenous culture and foraging practices. The organization highlights the innovation, sustainability, and politics surrounding Indigenous foraging techniques. Durán’s work has been featured at the Smithsonian Native American Museum, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the Native American Culinary Association, and the Cooking Channel.
7. Roushanna Gray, Cape Point, South Africa
As founder of the foraging and event company Veld and Sea, Roushanna Gray leads wild food expeditions along the Cape Floral Region of the South African coast. Gray uses foraging to foster connections with a historic region, which is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as one of the most biodiverse environments in the world. In 2019, Gray won the Food XX for Women in Food Spier Sustainability Award for her efforts to promote South Africa’s local biodiversity. Gray is featured in an original documentary series from Corona Studios called “Free Range Humans.”
8. Rob Greenfield, Florida, United States
Rob Greenfield is an environmental activist who promotes sustainability and environmental justice through global expeditions and demonstrations. In 2014, Greenfield’s Food Waste Fiasco campaign addressed food waste and hunger by foraging and recovering discarded food from dumpsters across the United States. Greenfield’s 2019 project to exclusively grow and forage food for an entire year will be chronicled in the forthcoming book, Food Freedom: A Year of Growing and Foraging 100% of My Food and Why It Matters. Greenfield donates the profits from his numerous media appearances to nonprofit sustainability-focused organizations.
9. Rodolfo Guzmán, Santiago, Chile
Chef Rodolfo Guzmán promotes local Chilean cuisine by sourcing and cooking foods native to Chile’s diverse ecosystems, including the Altiplano, Patagonia, the Chilean coastline, and Easter Island. Guzmán works with Chile’s scientific and rural foraging communities to supply his Santiago-based restaurant Boragó with exclusively locally-sourced and foraged food. The chef often consults with Indigenous herbalist Patricia Perez for guidance on Chile’s culture, cuisine, and native plant biodiversity. In 2019, Guzmán’s restaurant was named the 26th best restaurant in the world by the 50 Best organization.
10. Dr. Fushcia-Ann Hoover, Maryland, United States
Dr. Fushcia-Ann Hoover is a social-ecological systems scientist and amateur forager who studies urban development and environmental justice. In 2020, Hoover founded The EcoGreenQueen as a research center to analyze and develop the relationship between racial identity and urban spaces. As an amateur forager, Hoover sees her experience with nature and wild foods as a critical way to connect to her black heritage and further her studies of race and environmental justice.
11. Jeong Kwan, Baekyangsa Temple, South Korea
Buddhist nun and chef Jeong Kwan brings spirituality to the culinary arts by foraging, gardening, and cooking for a secluded monastery outside Seoul, Korea. Kwan exclusively sources ingredients from the Naejangsan National Park to make simple yet meticulous plant-based meals. Kwan has been featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table and regularly teaches international culinary luminaries how to imbue the culinary arts with spirituality and natural wisdom.
12. Gina Rae La Cerva, New Mexico, United States
Gina Rae La Cerva is an environmental anthropologist, geographer, and writer who illuminates the wonders of nature by explaining environmental science to the general public. La Cerva’s work explores the history and modern-day practices of foraging communities throughout the world. This research informed her book Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food, a detailed look into global foraging practices.
13. Hisato Nakahigashi, Hanase, Japan
Chef Hisato Nakahigashi works to elevate locally foraged foods to the highest echelons of Japanese cuisine. Nakahigashi begins each day foraging in the mountainous Hanase region for fresh ingredients to serve at his two-Michelin-starred restaurant Miyamasou in Kyoto, Japan. As the fourth-generation descendant of Miyamasou’s founder, Nakahigashi continues the family tradition of foraging and preparing locally-sourced foods for traditional kaiseki meals.
14. Alexis Nikole Nelson, Ohio, United States
During the COVID-19 pandemic, social media manager and amateur forager Alexis Nikole Nelson created a TikTok account to post foraging tutorials. Nelson’s social media account quickly amassed a large following totalling over 1 million followers. As a 28-year-old Black woman, Alexis Nikole Nelson provides a fresh perspective in the foraging community and encourages young people of all races to engage with nature.
15. Alison Pouliot, Victoria, Australia
Ecologist, natural historian, and writer Alison Pouliot analyzes Aboriginal Australian foraging culture and the group’s historic penchant for mushrooms. Pouliot operates 50 mushroom and foraging workshops across Australia in Victoria, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory. Pouliot’s latest book, Wild Mushrooming: A Guide for Foragers, provides a template for environmentally and medically sound mushroom foraging.
16. Shruti Tharayil, Kerala, India
Activist, artist, herbalist, and chef Shruti Tharayil promotes sustainability and female empowerment through youth-focused workshops on foraging and body positivity. After working with disadvantaged Indian women for the non-governmental organization Rela – Rhythms of Change, Tharayil founded the Forgotten Greens initiative to revive traditional foraging practices in the urban environment of India’s second largest state. Tharayil’s work has been featured in publications including Vice and Seema Magazine, one of the largest publications focused on South Asian women.
17. Tama Matsuoka Wong, New Jersey, United States
After a 25-year career as a financial services lawyer in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and New York, Tama Matsuoka Wong felt the urge to return to nature and become a full-time forager. Wong leads foraging tours on her New Jersey farm, created the company Meadows & More to sell wild plants, and is the exclusive forager for Michelin-star New York City restaurant Daniel. Wong synthesized her foraging expertise in the James Beard Award-nominated book Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer’s Market, with 88 Recipes: A Cookbook.
18. James Wood, Cheshire, England
In 2013, writer James Wood founded the Foraged Book Project to combine his passion for foraging, art, and teaching. The project saw Wood construct a limited run of foraging guides made entirely out of wild and foraged materials. The project spawned the Totally Wild UK foraging workshop in Northern England and the foraging guide and recipe collection The Foragers’ Cookbook: A Countryside Guide to Foraging and Cooking with Wild Food.
19. John Wright, Dorset, England
Mycologist John Wright is known as one of the foremost experts on the wild food ecosystem of Southern England. Wright is most known for his regular appearances as a foraging expert on the British television show River Cottage. In addition to operating foraging workshops, Wright has authored numerous foraging guides tailored for specific ecosystems in Southern England, including forests, hedgerows, and seashores.
20. Dianxi Xiaoge, Yunnan, China
Food blogger Dianxi Xiaoge highlights foraging practices and wild foods of the rural communities in the Yunnan Province of China. Xiaoge posts foraging and cooking demonstrations online to over 11 million followers. Xiaoge illuminates Yunnan’s natural beauty, rich plant diversity, and unique community to an online fanbase around the world.