Forest cuisine: a plate that looks like a trunk. on it there's a rustic sliced bread. on the table there's also a knife and a few mushrooms

Forest cuisine – natural recipes using forest foods

1. June 2020

Forest cuisine – what exactly is it? The name basically says it all. Forest cuisine isn’t cooking in the forest, instead food from the forest comes to the kitchen. This new trend revolves around using ingredients taken directly from nature. The most well-known chef in this field, Barbara Untermarzoner, gets the basic ingredients for her meals from the forest – located right outside of her home!

In this blog article, Tafelstern delves into the different ideas behind this concept to provide you with a detailed insight into forest cuisine.

Ingredients from the forest – isn’t food from the forest a thing of the past?

In modern times, people are seemingly no longer used to collecting food from the forest. Those who live in big towns and cities in particular could see this way of getting ingredients as a thing of the past. In the countryside, however, it’s a different story. Here some people still venture into the green countryside during mushroom season. However, you need to be extremely careful when picking mushrooms. If you don’t know how to identify different types of fungus then you must never risk picking and eating wild mushrooms at random.

In recent years, lots of trends have clearly emerged. Naturalness and sustainability are and continue to be increasingly important. Forest cuisine fits in with these trends.

Why should I try forest cuisine?

Forest cuisine has several advantages, which make it obvious why this trend has really taken off in the last few years. The sustainability and health benefits are just two of the plus points.

Forest foods are sustainable

Food from the forest is naturally sustainable. Even if it is a fair way to the nearest forest, you can be sure that the ingredients will take the shortest possible route to land in your saucepan. Reduced CO2 emissions are therefore guaranteed!

Another advantage: no packaging! The amount of plastic packaging that businesses use is slowly reducing. However, many items can only be bought packaged. With food from the forest this is not the case. Reducing plastic therefore goes hand in hand with this trend. If there are bits leftover, then they can go straight in the compost rather than the rubbish bin. The resulting compost is an ideal fertiliser and therefore helps new plants to grow: the perfect, natural cycle.

Another plus point is that fewer resources are needed. Ingredients for forest cuisine are not specially grown or altered by human intervention. No watering, fertilising or artificial light is needed. As well as reducing labour, this method also saves water and electricity.

All of this makes forest cuisine a genuinely sustainable way of eating.

Forest cuisine is healthy

Collecting food from the forest improves our health

forest cusine ingredients: a bowl full of bark, leaves and a shell

Even the time spent in the forest gathering food can have a positive impact on our health. The fresh air and light exercise strengthen the immune system and stimulate circulation. Simply breathing in the forest compared to in a town or city is healthier because forest air contains up to 90% fewer dust particles. Spending time outdoors in the countryside also has a positive effect on our stress hormones. Researchers discovered that 20 minutes a day is enough to dramatically reduce the level of stress hormones.

Trees are good for us. This is also backed up by further scientific research. Even looking at trees has a positive impact on our health. In 1984, a study discovered that patients that can see trees recovered quicker and also required less pain relief. In Japan, they’ve taken it even further. That’s where “forest bathing” has its roots. “Shinrin Yoku”, known in English as forest bathing has become an accepted practice in Japan and is even promoted by the Japanese health service. Since 2017, people have also been visiting the first certified “Cure and Healing Forest” in Germany on the island of Usedom.

Forest cuisine: health benefits of forest foods

As well as the health benefits of collecting the ingredients in the forest, spruce, nettles and certain types of edible ferns also have other hidden advantages. Spruce tips, for example, can be enjoyed as a little snack whenever you fancy. They taste slightly bitter and are thirst-quenching! In addition, the tips are also known to have antibacterial properties and can help alleviate coughs. Natural medicine – completely free!

Pine needles with their essential oils are another example. They are good for the stomach and strengthen the immune system. Spruce tea, for example, can help if you have a cold. Simply pour boiling water over a fresh spruce tip and leave it to steep. The tea tastes very strong and aromatic.

Nettle tea is another widely used natural remedy. This tea can be especially beneficial for bladder problems. It can also help to reduce blood pressure and strengthen the immune system. This tea is available to purchase from many chemists and pharmacies. However, you could also simply go into the forest, collect nettles, dry them out and make your own nettle tea.

What is the advantage of forest ingredients over bought ingredients? They don’t contain any flavour enhancers. People that want to try and eat as naturally as possible sometimes find it particularly difficult to find products without flavour enhancers. With forest foods, you don’t need to give flavour enhancers a second thought.

Forest cuisine attracts customers

For restaurateurs, there is nothing better than uniqueness. Traditional, national and regional dishes are and always will be popular. If you want to try regional recipes from Germany, then check out this blog. Other food concepts and specialist restaurants, such as burger restaurants, are also already well established.

However, forest cuisine isn’t (yet) mainstream. That’s not the only thing that makes it special. You can take lots of trends and bring them together in one concept. Sustainability, health, being close to nature, local cuisine – forest cuisine combines all of these ideas and therefore easily attracts an enthusiastic customer base.

Who can make forest cuisine? 

Forest cuisine is relatively simple. After all, our ancestors cooked this way without much equipment or fuss. So, forest cuisine is really suitable for everyone. However, it helps if you’re willing to experiment. Spontaneity and creativity are also useful, after all, you might not be able to find all of the ingredients that you were hoping for. Another thing to consider is time. Forest foods are quick to cook but “shopping” in the forest can take a lot longer. There’s no need to worry about stealing: in Germany, plants in public forests may be picked for personal use – as long as there is no clear ban in place. So, simply get out into the forest and start collecting!

 

Simple recipes for forest cuisine 

What does a meal picked from the forest actually look like? A very simple recipe that everyone can try quickly and easily is woodland pesto.

Just purée the following ingredients together using a hand blender:

  • spruce needles
  • spruce tips
  • pine nuts
  • larch tips
  • rapeseed oil

You can also play around with the ingredients. For example, you could conjure up a mountain pine pesto from your woodland pesto in no time.

This time you’ll need to add the following ingredients with your hand blender:

  • mountain pine needles
  • parsley
  • sunflower seeds
  • rapeseed oil

If your forest only has certain types of trees, then you could also substitute some of the ingredients in this recipe.

How should I present meals?

a plate in the style of forest cuisine: the plate is on a pile of moss, on the plate is gnocci style food made from old bread

Many high-end restaurants that have specialised in this trend serve their creations on stone plates or bark to further emphasise the concept of nature. However, the meals speak for themselves. So, plain plates also work very well. You can also make your dish look even more interesting by placing decorations from the forest around the edge of the plate.

Tafelstern has a wide range of impressive collections. Including plain plates which are ideal for forest cuisine! Here is an overview of Tafelstern’s collections.

Conclusion: forest cuisine is a real all-rounder 

Forest cuisine is very appealing. It’s natural, simple and sustainable. It’s good for our health and not just thanks to the walks in the forest to gather the ingredients. It strengthens the immune system and has lots of other health benefits. And of course, it’s delicious!

Forest cuisine isn’t rocket science: try it yourself and you’ll be amazed what you can create!

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