Food + Recipes

Forage like a Dane: What You Need to Know

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The small, green country made up of 406 islands with 7,314 km of coastline means that lucky Danes are never more than 50 km from the sea. It’s not unusual to see locals scouring the shallows at low tide to pick fresh mussels or cradling plastic containers bursting with berries from bushes lining country paths. Foraging has traditionally been a way of life in Denmark and families pass on the knowledge and skills to find food in the wild from generation to generation.

“A lot of Danes have been foraging for many years but since Noma and New Nordic Cuisine became really famous, it’s been spreading around the world,” says Claus Meyer’s former gastronomic adviser and chef extraordinaire Mikkel Karstad. “The whole idea of New Nordic Cuisine is that you should make food from what’s around you and what you can pick up yourself in nature – and this is something you can do wherever you are.”

To forage like a true Dane, you should only pick as much as you need; be sure not to damage the plants; and plan ahead – setting out with a roll of freezer bags, scissors and a guidebook or app at the ready to make sure you know what you’re looking for.

Feeling Inspired? Karstad Shares his Top Five Foraging Picks to Get You Started

Chanterelle
“The easiest things to start with are chanterelle mushrooms – they don’t look like any other kind so are usually okay to pick,” says Mikkel, “and you can use them in lots of dishes – like risotto.”

Wild garlic
“Wild garlic can be found all over the forest and is really easy to find and use,” says Mikkel. Byhøst has a great recipe for wild garlic pesto [in Danish]. Just substitute the foraged herb for the basil and mix with pine nuts, Parmesan and olive oil.

Dandelions
“The flowers can be used to flavour vinegar - just add a few to a white wine vinegar and allow to infuse – while the leaves are good for salad and taste a little like rocket,” says Mikkel.

Nettles
“These are found everywhere and can taste great in soup or wilted,” says Mikkel. “Sauté in butter as a side dish or use on pasta or pizza.”

Berries
“It’s good to have an idea of what is in season when... so you know what you’re gathering,” says Mikkel. “Raspberries will ripen in late June and early July in the Northern Hemisphere and blackberries are available from July to September – just look for the shiny, plump ones. If in doubt, taste a little and see if the flavour’s good.”

Four Apps to Try:

iPlant with Brigitte Mars: A Wild Plant Reference Guide
A guide to North American edible plants.

Beginners Guide to Wild Food Foraging
Forager and chef, David Beazley shows you how to locate, identify and cook common British wild foods.

Mobile Foraging Companion
List of over 300 plants with basic information on edible parts. (Free)

Wild Plant Survival Guide By Double Dog Studios
Describes the physical characteristics, habitat and distribution of edible, medicinal and poisonous wild plants.