Discover nature’s hidden larder in the forests, hedgerow, riverbanks and on the coast.
Wild food is the ultimate in ‘local’ and ‘seasonal’ produce, and historically has always been a source of food for country people. Foraging re-awakens your senses so you gain a greater appreciation of the land, and your place in the natural cycles and rhythms of life. How much more local and fresh can you get than taking a walk through the woods and forests near your holiday home and looking for truffles or fresh herbs or strolling along the seashores next to your beachside villa collecting sea greens, scallops and other shellfish? You could always try a spot of fishing too.
Hunting for truffles in Italy
Truffles are one of the world's most expensive foods, and the Italian white is the most valuable of all, with a market price of up to 5,000 EUR per kilo. Hunters guess at where the year's harvest might be found by judging the weather, the earth and the plants. But most of all, they rely on their dogs, rather than the pigs of legend. Pigs might have the sensitive snouts required for the job, but their use is banned in Italy because their overeager rooting damages the truffles' delicate mycelia, the spore-holding web necessary for their reproduction. Also, it can be rather dangerous to get between a 300-kilogram pig and a truffle it is determined to eat. The San Miniato Hills, with their mild Tuscan climate and soil rich in mineral salts, are the perfect breeding ground for top-quality truffles - as well as the wine and olive oil for which Tuscany is famous. The best time of the year to look for truffles in the region is in October and November.
Where to stay:
Villa Casetta Villa Casetta is a renovated Tuscan home set in the vineyards of the Relais Il Borro estate. Guests staying at Casetta have full access to the facilities of the hotel estate including the spa, restaurants and private medieval village. Villa Casetta has a large garden with an infinity swimming pool that looks to the Tuscan hills and the vineyards. Campo al Doccio Villa Campo al Doccio is set in the private estate of Castello di Casole which has its own vineyards, olive groves and private reserve. The historic castle, now a 41 suite 5 star boutique hotel, is also located within 4,200 acre estate and offers excellent spa facilities and fine and casual dining options in a choice of beautiful venues. Campo al Doccio is one of the private villas on the estate and offers accommodation for up to six guests with incredible views across the pool and terraces to the Tuscan hills beyond. Villa Torre al Poggio Lovingly restored and converted into a private residence, Villa Torre al Poggio has a spectacular location in Chianti Classico, overlooking the skyline of Siena. Designed by the owners, the property has featured in many international magazines including House and Garden and Architectural Digest. Set within a hectare of fenced garden complete with vegetable patch and orchard, Villa Torre al Poggio provides the perfect setting for spending long lazy days lounging by the large salt water swimming pool.
Foraging for sea greens
Freshly foraged sea greens are tasty, nutritious and filling; and best of all, they’re free. Like many foraged foods, sea greens emerged from the wilderness to capture the imagination of Britain's celebrity chefs. Seaweed has long been prized in Japan, where it is as commonplace as beans on toast. Provided you only take a little here and there, carefully removing just a small part of each plant with scissors, conservation is easily achieved. Rock samphire is very plentiful on Catalan coasts, particularly in Mallorca, where in pickled form it is a staple accompaniment to traditional pa amb oli (bread with olive oil). It can be collected throughout the year—just look for young and tender shoots. Follow the Mallorcans’ lead and pickle it in a boiling mix of equal parts water and vinegar and two tablespoons of salt per litre of liquid.The best place to find rock samphire is on the landward edge of rocky shores, particularly in Mallorca. It often grows in rock crevices high up the side of cliffs but can be found on low-lying rocks and shingle beaches. Rock samphire is at its best picked in spring and summer.
Where to stay:
Niu de Volter Set in 14,000m² of mature landscaped gardens at an altitude of 130 metres and with uninterrupted sea and mountain views, Niu de Voltor is a stunning property in a wonderful location. Accommodating up to 18 guests in nine ensuite bedrooms and with an interior living space of 3,500m² as well as extensive outdoor terraces and porches, it is ideal for large social gatherings and celebrations. Son Balagueret Son Balagueret is set in Son Bunyola, a private, rural 700 acre estate on the north-west coast of Mallorca. Son Balagueret is the latest addition to the Son Bunyola Estate, with four bedrooms sleeping eight adults. There is a little pebble beach about 50 minutes away on foot and from here it is possible to pick up the coastal trail. The nearest town of Banyalbufer is 10 minutes by car along the scenic coast road and Palma is 35 minutes drive. Casa Senorial Set within its own gated grounds, Casa Senorial is a 14th Century farmhouse that has been beautifully renovated whilst retaining many traditional features. Situated in the south-east of the island, just outside the small village of s’Horta with its local amenities, the family resort of Cala d’Or and the beautiful beaches of Cala D’en Marçal and Cala Sa Nau are all within 10 minutes drive.
Foraging on the coast turns any trip to the beach into a hunting and gathering adventure. There’s something very grounding about entering into the prehistoric ritual of gathering up your own food and cooking it over a fire on the beach. If you're looking for an entry level into coastal food foraging, mussels are a good place to start as they’re easily identifiable, plentiful, and absolutely delicious. Mussels attach themselves to just about anything they can get hold of along the tide line, from rocks and gravel beds to seaweed and jetties; delicious seafood just waiting to be picked. In the northern hemisphere, generally you should only collect and eat shellfish when there is an “R” in the month.