Interview: Found + Foraged, A Television Show About Urban Foraging

It is my pleasure to introduce Lisa Marie Bhattacharya, host and co-producer, along with Deborah Burns, of Found + Foraged. This online television series is dedicated to urban foraging of wild edibles available where they live in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Many wild edibles found in urban areas grow abundantly all over the world. Plants like chickweed, garlic mustard and field garlic, thrive where the soil has been disturbed.

When I saw the trailer for this series, I knew that Lisa Marie and Deborah were joyful forager soul mates. I can easily imagine myself out in the field with them. Their insightful comments as foragers and media producers in the following interview are the next best thing.

The Joyful Forager: What was your first foraging experience? Where were you and were you mentored or self taught? 

Deborah Burns: Lisa Marie and I are stepsisters and we grew up in a small town on the West Coast of Canada, where foraging was pretty natural. From very little I was picking blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. As I got a bit older I went out for oysters and clams with my best friend and her mom who are Native Indian. 

Lisa Marie Bhattacharya: I, too, remember picking berries for as long as I can remember. In more recent years I had a physician friend/mentor take me foraging on Bowen Island, BC. He learned a lot from his First Nations friends and colleagues. I learned mostly about medicinal mushrooms that are prolific here in BC and throughout the Pacific Northwest and apparently also the east coast and everywhere in between, too.

                     Lisa Marie Bhattacharya holding clover leaves and flowers. Photograph by  Found + Foraged  .

                   Lisa Marie Bhattacharya holding clover leaves and flowers. Photograph by Found + Foraged.

TJF: Deborah, I share your definition of foraging for useful materials as well as healthy food. One issue we have here on the east coast is that invasive plants, some from the west coast, become easily established, preventing local native species from growing. Do you think that encouraging beginning foragers to harvest invasive species in abundance would be a way to help native species survive?     

DB: I think that is an amazing solution for beginners or seasoned foragers. Once people know what is edible, especially weeds in their yard, I think they could be more inclined to harvest for to eating or making an extra few dollars at the farmers market. It might also stop the use of Roundup.  

LMB: Great idea. Another great way to keep invasives at bay, certainly smarter than just applying weed killers. I like the idea of encouraging children going door to door in their neighbourhood to help forage invasives in people's yards and collecting an income and then having another opportunity to sell them at a farmer's market. We may be onto something! Inspiring children is a great place to start if you want to inspire change. They have a natural sense of wonder, curiosity and drive to do what interests them. So I’m putting more and more my focus on educating young people so they can inherit a better planet.

TJF: Lisa Marie, the idea of having children weed the neighbors' yards and then sell the wild edibles at farmers' markets is brilliant. I hope that idea catches on across North America. What would you say to someone who recognizes a dandelion, but has never thought about it as food?                                          

DB: I would probably first tell them you can make it into wine. 

LMB: Ha! Yes, there's one place to start. I find that telling people of the inherent medicinal properties, or at least the nutritional ones, usually inspires people to see it through a different lens and peak their interest toward considering consuming them.

DB: Anything with a wild mushroom in it.

LMB: Chickweed pesto and oyster mushrooms risotto with some kind of wild green, i.e.: mustard greens, sea asparagus, are two favourites.

TJF: Will people outside your area be able to see the Found + Foraged pilot? 

DB: Yes, it will be aired on Telus Optik TV On Demand, and on our YouTube channel.

TJF: How have producers, networks and viewers reacted to the idea of a foraging program?

DB: We have had really amazing support from the community, friends and have had a few messages about how do we take Found + Foraged to the next level. It’s really exciting and we are looking forward to when the pilot episode airs. We are part of a competition on Telus, called Storyhive. In the first round we produced a two minute pitch where we competed against 120 local filmmakers. We and 14 other teams won funding to make our pilot episode. When the pilot airs, we will compete with the remaining 14 teams for a chance to have a full five episode season produced.                                                                                                     

LMB: I've been really touched by the breadth of support from all kinds of people. I think it really resonates with a broad demographic.

TJF: What would you say to aspiring TV and film producers who share your passion for foraging?

DB: There's lots to forage out there, and I think the more well researched information out there for the general public the better. Its our community and world; we should be more connected.

LMB: This is a story that needs to be told. The global community is starving for a return to a natural way of being, a sense of re-connection. This kind of show has the potential to be a wonderful conduit?

TJF: Is there anything else you would like to share about foraging or media?   

DB: Found + Foraged will be competing for the top spot on Storyhive in March 2015. Please come check out our pilot episode and vote for us at www.storyhive.com.       

LMB: Pick up a book from your local library, research local wild food resources online too and find out what you can forage in your area. You won't believe the nutritive potential (as well as medicinal) of so many plants and fungi that grow wild, that we haven't got a clue about and that we take for granted. And of course tune in and watch our show! Many things we'll be harvesting will be available in many parts of the world, not just coastal BC.    

TJF: Lisa Marie and Deborah, thank you very much for your time and your insights. The Joyful Forager will make it a point to watch your show and keep my followers informed of your progress. Wishing you abundant wild harvests and happy, healthy, budget-friendly eating.  

My thanks to Lisa Marie Bhattacharya, RHN, Found + Foraged Host, Writer, Nutritionist and Medicinal Mushroom Harvester and Deborah Burns, Found + Foraged Producer, Writer and Director for this interview.