If you look at a Venn diagram with a central overlap labeled “finding something on the ground, picking it up, and trying to eat it,” the two groups of people listed would be toddlers and foragers. While you’d probably stop the former for their protection, the latter you might encourage in the hopes they’d find something seasonally delicious.
In Minnesota, the best-known foraging heralds are ramps and morels, signifying that winter has finally ended and spring has sprung. As enjoyable and sought after as those are, they’re just the appetizers. According to Cosmos chef Tim Fischer, "now is the time of year the grocery store is open."
On Thursday, August 22, Fischer will showcase Minnesota’s stocked shelves at Cosmos in the Loews for a one-night dining adventure called the Northern Foragers Dinner. Lucky diners will be treated to a multi-course meal featuring several foraged fungi as well as a few that have become domesticated, a variety of greens, some local crustaceans, numerous berries -- including a sarsaparilla berry -- and beverage pairings.
In the modern era of takeout, fast food, and meal kits, one might wonder what drives people to forage. Why brave the bugs, heat, and humidity of the forests when the produce section of your local grocery store has a pretty good variety of close enough, not to mention air conditioning? Chef Fischer pointed to fellow local culinarian, Sean Sherman, aka the Sioux Chef, and his advocacy of food of the place, of the time, and rekindling an interest in the forgotten works. Plus it's great exercise.
Fischer has been an avid forager most of his life. He, his family, and several of his staff members spend time foraging locally and on 600 acres in northern Minnesota. When asked what he enjoys finding the most when foraging, Fischer said he enjoys the first fiddlehead ferns in spring and finding the first yellow brick road of chanterelles in summer…. But when we talked, nothing excited him like telling me about finding a copse with a hundred pounds of lobster mushrooms gathered in an area the size of a professional kitchen.
Yuval Noah Harari, author of the bestseller Sapiens, mentions that studies have shown that the brain size of humans has shrunk a little bit since we switched from a foraging civilization to an agrarian one. Now, I’m not saying that means that foraged items are brain food, but it can't hurt.
If you're interested in experiencing Minnesota's summer foraging bounty through the Northern Foragers Dinner, details and beverage pairing options, as well as how to make reservations can be found via Open Table (just search August 22). If you go, while I'm not a foraged item, you might find me too.
601 First Ave. N., Minneapolis