5 Affordable Foraging Experiences for Travelers

by  Christine Wei | Apr 22, 2014
Truffle Hunting Dog
Truffle Hunting Dog / Coscarella Gianfranco/iStock

Foraging is a culinary trend that isn't going away, and it's only getting bigger in travel. Many credit the movement to chef René Redzepi of Noma, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Copenhagen that frequently tops "Best in the World" restaurant lists. And it makes sense, especially at a time when travelers are seeking local and immersive experiences, the appeal of foraging for your own food is clear. It’s a fresh way to connect with a destination; it’s wonderfully tactile; and it’s a reminder of the wonders that nature has to offer.

These days, foraging in travel goes beyond reserving tables at a restaurant with an adventurous chef. More and more foraging tours and excursions have popped up in many locales. Here, we've rounded up some ideas and destinations to get you started. Just keep in mind that there are dangers in gathering your own food – including risk of illness if you eat the wrong thing – and the issue of sustainability in the harvesting process. That's why we suggest that you always connect with a local expert or company that specializes in foraging; you'll also want to know the local regulations and best practices.

Scallops in Florida
Seafood-loving foragers can find a robust mollusk population along the Crystal River, about a 90-minute drive from Orlando on Florida’s west coast. You only need to look four to eight feet below the surface – shallow enough for snorkelers. A tour with Manatee Tour and Dive covers all the basics and gets you out on the water for $75. The excursion includes all of your equipment, a required fishing license, and a scenic tour.  They'll even clean your scallops for you and send you home with ice to keep them cold. This year, the recreational scalloping season runs from July 1 through September 24.

Good to know: There's a limit of two gallons of whole scallops or one pint of scallop meat per person, per day. A tour will cover you under the operator's fishing license, but if you want to go it on your own, a non-resident fishing permit starts at $17 for three days.

Truffles in Italy
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend a fortune to go truffle hunting. In Italy, it's sometimes free to simply tag along on a hunt (though there’s no guarantee of English-language narration). Head to Tuscany, where hopefuls can try contacting The Association of the Truffle Hunters of Siena [+39 (0) 577803213] to connect with a trifolau, or truffle harvester. Or, secure a date with old hats like Florence-based Giulio Benuzzi, a third-generation hunter and B&B owner. His €75 ($104) packages include a hike with Edda, his canine sidekick, plus a truffle sandwich and red wine picnic in the forest. In the San Giovanni d'Asso region, Osteria delle Crete offers hunts for €50 ($69), tastings for €20 ($28) more, and English translation at €30 ($41) each.

Good to know: When is prime truffle season? It depends on the truffle. Great hunting opportunities also abound in Istria, Croatia, like this affordable €45 ($62) three-hour hunting and tasting tour.

Clams in Alaska
Always dreamed of exploring the “Last Frontier”? Don’t leave without trying your foraging skills in the state's abundant clam beds. The most popular – and safest – region to dig for clams is in Southcentral Alaska, in the Kenai Peninsula’s Cook Inlet, and the south side of Kachemak Bay. (Toxin poisoning is a serious concern in recreational clam digging, and it’s largely in Kenai that beaches have been categorized as more “safe.”) Your best bet is to follow the lead of local experts who are not only in the know, but can also show you how to harvest more sustainably. Some lodges like Peterson Bay include clam excursions, as well as other kinds of fishing trips, in their rates (from $165 per person, per night), while others like Bob's Pictorial Pursuits offers various clamming and fishing trips, multi-day tours, and accommodation-inclusive packages (from $105 for a half-day).

Good to know: Sport fishing licenses start at $20 per day for visitors. This year, limits on Kenai went from 60 to 25 clams per person, per day due to a smaller harvest (not that anyone can eat 60 in one sitting anyway).

Edible Plants in Australia
Before it became a gastronomic trend, foraging was a survivor skill. Nowhere is that culture more ingrained than in Australia, where the Bush Tucker Man TV series brought "bushcraft" fame in the late 80s and 90s. Get a taste in Sydney with Diego Bonetto, the naturalist behind projects like Wild Stories and Weedy Connections. His urban adventures include a complimentary copy of his self-penned, 20-page guide to foraging in the area, so your $30 AUD ($28) goes well beyond the plaintain, dandelion, and chickweed that you'll learn to harvest in your two-hour walk. For a dose of healing greens, Eat That Weed offers a two-hour walk and workshop focusing on medicinal properties of garden plants in Melbourne for $25 AUD ($23).

Mushrooms in Colorado
Mushroom foraging is a popular pastime in the Vail Valley, where ski slopes give way to hiking and river tubing in summer. To make it a hunt to remember, the Four Seasons offers a seven-hour tour on select weekends with Larry Evans, an expert who's earned a reputation of the "Indiana Jones of mushroom hunting," says the general manager at the resort. Rates for the upcoming season haven't yet been released, but the experience went for $250 last year. Considering that the daylong package includes a cushy Mercedes SUV ride out to the trail, a gourmet wine picnic, and a culinary demonstration and dinner back at the resort, the price is actually right.

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