A friend of mine, a doctor in rural West Virginia, once told me her patients were ecstatic in the spring because every night, they would eat "these strong, oniony things"ramps. Many of her patients were poor, and the ramps, growing wild near streams, were a delicious accompaniment to inexpensive dishes like potato hash and eggs.
Of course, ramps now fetch top dollar at urban farmers' markets, and foraging (like gardening, preserving and hunting) has become a locavore fixation. Wild foods are so in demand by chefs that professional forager Kerry Clasbywell known among cooks in Los Angeles for pristine ingredients, including wild baby radishesnow gets phone calls from big names like New York City chef Tom Colicchio, asking her to send her finds East.
Tyler Gray of Mikuni Wild Harvest in Vancouver hopes to introduce more of these ingredients to home cooks and is pitching a TV show about foraging. The pilot focuses on a Native American named Running Squirrel, who gathers the incredible salad mix that Gray sells to chefs. One day, Gray imagines, he'll have lots of customers for Running Squirrel's $13-a-pound greens. But for anyone who doesn't feel like paying, the forests and fields are open to all.