Food Gathering Across Europe

Food gathering, or foraging for wild foods, provided one American couple a means of defraying the cost of the trip and having delicious meals during their European vacation in the late 1970s.

| March/April 1980

  • 062 food gathering - four panels
    LEFT: Good King Henry is a spinach-like green CENTER: Lamb's quarter is common on both side of the Atlantic. TOP RIGHT: Under the spreading chestnut trees at Abbey Wood campground in London. BOTTOM RIGHT: Scones aux myrtilles, aka wild huckleberries on scones.
  • 062 food gathering - the Alps
    The author surveying the Aiguilles Rouges above the town of Chamonix.
  • 062 food gathering - Alpine dock
    Alpine dock, an ancient potherb know as "monks' rhubarb" in the Middle Ages.

  • 062 food gathering - four panels
  • 062 food gathering - the Alps
  • 062 food gathering - Alpine dock

When we planned our recent overseas vacation, my husband and I realized that touring Europe after the "fall" (of the American dollar) would be a real challenge to our "makin' do" abilities. Yet, having spent many happy days "doing more with less" on four previous extended trips to the Alps and the Mediterranean area, we took a deep breath and decided to try it once more.

We knew that a vehicle would be necessary, as we wanted to see the back roads and visit many places that European public transportation doesn't reach. Unfortunately, the cost of new campers in Europe ($9,000 and up . . . and rising) was forbidding, and equipped-for-camping rental vans were in the $50-a-day range. So we scrubbed and tuned our venerable 1970 VW camper, and shipped it back to the continent of its birth. The $1,200 freight charge (from San Francisco to Le Havre, France) provided us with—in effect—a car, a hotel, and a do-it-yourself restaurant for eight months. (We followed the van over on an economy flight.)

The scenery was—from the start—every bit as marvelous as we remembered, though the trails did seem a mite steeper than they had on our first trip some 20 years before. The prices, however, really were steeper! We soon learned to walk (often slowly) uphill instead of riding the téléphériques . . . to make splendid crepes suzette in the camper instead of buying the luscious and costly pastries that were displayed everywhere ... to visit fewer places (and spend longish periods in each spot) so that we could keep our gas consumption down . . . and to enjoy a big salad "at home" first, then go out for the treat of one dish (instead of a whole meal) in a picturesque restaurant and—still later—have a coffee at a sidewalk cafe. (We called our dining habits "progressive dinners without financial indigestion".)

And we foraged wild foods! Food gathering enabled us to obtain free fruits and vegetables, instead of paying formidable market prices, and—at the same time—it improved our meals!

Going Wild

Most Europeans, like most Americans, have become so weaned from their ancestral habits that they no longer use wild foods. However, we did see country people, especially in Italy, foraging along the roadsides for fodder for their animals and potherbs for the dinner table (spring mushrooms and mustard greens are widely relished there).

We learned to pick only at the overgrown edges of fields, forests, or trails . . . and never in the middle of meadows. Alpine farmers resent tourists who tromp across their hayfields ... so we were careful to be polite.


Fermentation Frenzy!

September 12-13, 2019
Seven Springs, Pa

Fermentation Frenzy! is produced by Fermentation magazine in conjunction with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. This one-and-a-half day event is jam-packed with fun and informative hands-on sessions.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me