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Thursday, September 10, 2009

forageSF is Offering a Twist on the CSA: Subscription Boxes of Locally Foraged Foods

Posted By on Thu, Sep 10, 2009 at 11:24 AM

click to enlarge Philosophically potent: A forage box. - GENE LEE/FORAGESF
  • Gene Lee/forageSF
  • Philosophically potent: A forage box.
About a year ago, ambling through an exceptional meal at La Ciccia, we could not help but overhear a wine-soaked windbag over at the next table brag to his dining companions about his superior eating habits. "Why, I eat as my ancestors did," the man said proudly, throwing his voice theatrically around the small packed restaurant. "I've done the research!" His companions nodded generously, and he'd leaned back in his chair, folding his arms cockily, a strand of tuna heart pasta clinging gamely to gray-brown whiskers protruding from under his chin.

Okay, so that last bit was invented. All the same, the dude was annoying. Besides, U.S. News and World Report, among dozens of other media entities and scientists, had emphatically made his point already: Modern diets don't jive so well with our genetic requirements, and we'd be less vulnerable to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and the like if we literally ate more like cavemen -- a change in habit that would also bring us perhaps spiritually closer to our Paleolithic predecessors.

The less trumpeted wild foods movement takes a slightly different tack, pushing local, sustainably foraged edibles as a natural complement or alternative to even the most noble of farmed foods -- environmentally sound, nutrient-rich, and, perhaps most importantly, philosophically potent. In a fairly unprecedented move, Iso Rabins, founder of forageSF, is now offering community supported forage (CSF) in monthly boxes ranging in size. Start with the $20 "baby" box for a little taste, or go with the $80 pesca-fungitarian, a cornucopia of revolving seasonal delights, including wild mushrooms such as chanterelles, black trumpets, and morels, nettles, miners lettuce, fresh local halibut, sea beans, fresh fruit, and cattail rhizomes, as well as prepared wild foods like sea bean pickles, acorn bread, and nettle pesto.

Clearly, foods requiring no fossil fuel to grow -- just the sun -- leave a shallow carbon footprint, which, if you're into that sort of thing, is an appealing prospect. Even locally farmed produce has more production costs. But what, might you ask, are the specific personal benefits of eating wild?

"There are more nutrients in a lot of these foods," said Rabins over the phone. "When you grow food on a farm, you're telling it to grow in a specific place and climate. Wild foods pick their own optimal climate and space. They're as healthy as they can be."

"A sense of what's growing around you ties you to your sense of place," he went on. "And this place is different from any other in the world."

We'd also wager that, even if your ancestors didn't chomp nettles around this region's once-building-less hillocks, bridge-less bodies of water, and silicon-less valleys, getting in touch with the foods the Bay Area's first inhabitants discovered might give you a warm, enlightened perspective on the lives they lived.

Currently, Rabins maintains two free pickup locations, in San Francisco and Oakland. He invites you to get in touch if you'd like to host one in Marin County or elsewhere.

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Andrew Simmons

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