7

I guess this would be a "sub-question" to Food questions not related to how to cook, but, do we/should we allow questions regarding foraging / identifying food growing wild. There's a lot of food available to pick wild at the moment and, at least for me, assistance in identifying things would be useful as I fully intend to cook with them.

For example; there are several bushes on a "nature-trail" near where I work that I'm fairly sure are Sloes, but I'm not 100% certain as they could also (apparently!) be wild plums or one or two other things.

So:

  • Do/should we allow questions regarding the identification of wild fruits/vegetables/herbs?
  • If it's a "could go either way", would it bring it more "on-topic" to widen any such question to ask for suggested uses for foraged food-stuffs?
4

My vote goes for off topic, as it seems quite specific and wide ranging. And also I'm not certain how helpful someone on the internet can be. It feels like something that is probably best learnt with someone else who knows already, or with a good book. But i'm interested in what the community think.

Uses for foraged food stuff would be as on topic as uses for any food stuff.

  • 1
    "And also I'm not certain how helpful someone on the internet can be. It feels like something that is probably best learnt with someone else who knows already, or with a good book." How does this not apply to any field of endeavor and advice from "the internet" in general? Why trust netizens with recipe advice then? – Jared Updike Jul 28 '10 at 21:54
4

EDIT: I needed to simplify my answer.

As with all areas of interest that can be even tangentially related to "Food and Cooking," it depends on the question. In this case, while I wouldn't include foraging as an example of an on-topic question to showcase in the FAQ, I would evaluate each question in this area individually.

Questions strictly about identifying wild foods, like this one, are more than likely off-topic because they usually can't be narrowly answered.

However, not all questions about wild foods are the same. For example this question about when to pick blueberries could be considered a "foraging question," but assuming the food item has already been properly identified, the subsequent answer ensures that the ingredients used are in their proper state before cooking.

I don't think we need to categorically close questions related to foraging, but questions that involve foraging should be sufficiently close to the "food and cooking" theme of the site.

  • 1
    I agree with your clarification. I don't consider the blueberries question to be about foraging. The clarification that identifying wild foods is off-topic is a good one. – hobodave Jul 27 '10 at 19:15
2

I think they are off topic and better suited for a survival site. This question serves as a perfect example I feel, although I was the only one to vote it off topic. I guess it's harmless enough because the answer is "you can't". I also think the same goes for foraging for wild berries.

Our community wants to welcome expert chefs. I could be mistaken, but I don't think that "foraging" is a topic widely known to chefs. Granted, there may be some who are also "experts" in foraging, but I still don't think this is the appropriate forum. The consequences of eating a wild berry or mushroom could be terrible sickness or death. Since positive identification is the only guaranteed method of determining something in the wild is safe, this medium isn't really suited for such a thing.

For example with mushrooms, positive identification can require all of the following: 1) Expert knowledge of all mushrooms in your region. 2) Near expert knowledge of mushrooms in other nearby regions 3) Analyzing various physical characteristics such as: where it grows, size/shape of stalk, whether gills are attached, color of gills 3) Spore analysis 4) Reaction to water

This is a vast amount of information to convey on the internet. It would require a huge swath of text as well as many images. Even then, unless you personally were an expert and could identify it, you could get sick and die. Any survival expert I know would not give advice to anyone as to whether something is safe to eat or not unless they are hands-on.

  • I missed that one. You'll be happy to know that I added my off-topic vote to yours. Just 3 more... – Aaronut Jul 27 '10 at 18:25
  • Ok, I changed my mind a little. I would agree that foraging questions that are strictly about identification would likely be off-topic. I've edited my answer accordingly. – Ben McCormack Jul 27 '10 at 19:00
0

Foraging is finding ingredients in nature to use in cooking. Ingredient selection is a basic and perennial aspect of all cuisine, and to the extent that foraging (or horticulture, or hunting, or shopping) contributes directly to the cooking process, I think questions should be encouraged.

If people have access to wild ingredients and want to use them, or want to know if their area has any, that's a great thing to know. The question has to be asked well, of course. Queries which merely say, "can I eat this" are trite, arbitrary, and potentially dangerous.

Specifically, if someone took a picture of a store-bought olive, uploaded it, and wanted to know what variety it was, what region it came from, what its flavor notes were, and how best to pair it in a dish, there'd be no problem with it. What's so different about that and someone uploading a picture of a berry from the trail behind their house, or an herb they gathered in a field?

Phrasing and context will matter. "How do I incorporate local or seasonal food into menu-planning?" is a serious question that serious chefs ask all the time. "Which variety of basil grows best in an herb garden in the south" doesn't strike me as unreasonable either. I think it's better to have people ask it. Outside the line would involve plant breeding, genetics, classifications of species, specific techniques for gathering, hunting, or growing, or anything too regional to be useful for most readers. In short, "would a chef be able to make better food because they know the answer to this question?" seems like a good benchmark.

Mushrooms, truffles, some herbs, fruits, berries, even, theoretically, hunted game could be tangentially on topic. What about how to dress, store, or cook venison?

Foraging is not something only hippies, freegans and survivalists do; increasingly it's something that gourmands and foodies, traditional cooks and regional/nativist enthusiasts do. It is certainly something the ancestors of our great cuisines did. It is something we can do, too, with requisite knowledge, which is what this site can help to provide.

I understand the importance of keeping the site high quality, I just tend to disagree that fringe questions are the problem. I think more generally, bad questions are the problem. I don't have experience with SO, so I don't have history moderating; I'm just responding to my personal preferences: I'd like to know about these things, and think other cooks/chefs might too.

  • 1
    I simply disagree. It is not what this site is here to provide. Just because the word "food" is in the title of this site doesn't mean that every topic which relates to food is wanted here. – hobodave Jul 28 '10 at 17:39
  • How can information about finding regionally unique, "wildcrafted" ingredients be off-topic? It borders on "too local" but plenty of ingredients are not isolated to a single area, and these ingredients can be the essence of fresh, unprocessed, authentic, and good-tasting. – Ocaasi Jul 28 '10 at 17:47
  • 2
    It just is. I explain my reasons in my answer above and will not repeat them here. Also, horticulture is off-topic here as well. "Shopping" can also potentially off topic depending how it's asked. Though you don't mention it, Health is also off-topic. There are a handful of meta discussions on some of these topics and example questions for most, if not all, in the area51 sample questions. This is the first time "foraging" has come up and it looks as if this thread will help decide where we come down on it. I understand your point of view and disagree. – hobodave Jul 28 '10 at 20:06
  • 1
    If it is connected to cooking, practically asked, and might be useful to readers, we should include it. Mushrooms, truffles, some herbs, fruits, berries, even, theoretically, hunted game could be tangentially on topic. What about how to dress, store, or cook venison? It's all food selection and prep. Foraging is a hot fad in the food world, not just among survivalists; we shouldn't rule it off-topic outright. Health, too, is relevant if it's cooking-related and not "weight-loss" related. "What's a low-fat breakfast," is lame but "what's an alternative to mayonnaise on a sandwich" isn't. – Ocaasi Jul 28 '10 at 20:25
  • 1
    ...Foraging isn't just about will this kill me, but where can I find this, how can I make it delicious, and which varieties are best. – Ocaasi Jul 28 '10 at 20:25
  • 1
    @Ocaasi, under that definition questions about growing food would be on topic, something that I would be against. What about questions about breeding plants for specific food purposes? Where would you draw the line? I think 'where Can I find this?' and 'will this kill me?' would be off topic, but the other 2 could be ok in the right context, they are nothing to do with foraging though. – Sam Holder Jul 28 '10 at 20:30
  • Phrasing and context will matter. "How do I incorporate local or seasonal food into menu-planning?" is a serious question that serious chefs ask all the time. "Which variety of basil grows best in an herb garden in the south" doesn't strike me as crazy. I think it's better to have people ask it. Outside the line would involve plant breeding, genetics, classifications of species, specific techniques for gathering, hunting, or growing, or anything too regional to be useful for most readers. In short, "would a chef benefit from knowing this?" seems a good benchmark. – Ocaasi Jul 28 '10 at 20:42
  • @Ocaasi: "doesn't strike me as crazy." The issue is not whether it's a crazy or bad question but rather whether this is the place to ask it. Questions about farming are not crazy but are not part and parcel of the site so foraging questions may fall in the same category for the same reasons. A chef running his own restaurant would benefit from knowing how better to do double entry book-keeping but that doesn't make it apropos for the site. – Jared Updike Jul 28 '10 at 21:58
  • Ocaasi: I think the issue here is your answer above is rather poor. It is vague and reads to me like "foraging, horticulture, and shopping should all be on topic". You've put much more effort into your comments here than into your question itself. I think you should pull some of your example questions into the actual answer. I agree that some of your examples are valid questions. We're not saying that eating homegrown or foraged food is patently off-topic. The question here is quite specifically regarding the identification of foraged foods. The other answers here are responding to such. – hobodave Jul 28 '10 at 22:03
  • @Ocaasi: It seems this phrase gets repeated here ad nauseum, but we're not saying xxxxx is a dirty word. Replace xxxxx with alcohol, foraging, health, shopping, recipes, etc. You acknowledge yourself that, "phrasing and context will matter". Of course it does, so provide some in your answer. – hobodave Jul 28 '10 at 22:06
  • @Jared. Well I meant "not crazy" as in "not crazy for the scope of this site". It didn't translate literally. "Would a chef benefit from knowing this qua chef"... I didn't say it explicitly, but the key was that the knowledge would ultimately aid in food preparation (not finances... although now that you mention it, questions about ingredient costs, where to get bulk food or cheap fresh food, or where ingredients are cheapest, or what varieties of oyster are most expensive all seem worthwhile in the right context). – Ocaasi Jul 29 '10 at 5:09
  • @ hobodave. If you have a request for me, please ask or suggest it rather than just use short remark. I think I can afford to be a bit contrarian since the overwhelming sentiment seems to be against "grey area" questions. I understand the importance of keeping the site high quality, I just tend to disagree that fringe questions are the problem. I think more generally, bad questions are the problem. I don't have experience with SO, so I don't have history moderating; I'm just responding to my personal preferences: I'd like to know about these things, and think other cooks/chefs might too. – Ocaasi Jul 29 '10 at 5:26
  • @Ocaasi: I suggested you move some of your comment points into your answer and explained myself. I didn't intend this as a short remark. What can I do to improve my communications to you? – hobodave Jul 29 '10 at 8:05
  • @hobodave I'm probably responding to the use of italics, which can come of as particularly annoyed. Also, phrasing statements of judgment as fact can come off as short. I think it's important to communicate consensus without turning off potential members of the community, and to caution against bad ideas (to which I'm not immune) without stifling the exchange of ideas in general. – Ocaasi Jul 29 '10 at 17:45
  • @Ocaasi: Thanks for the feedback. I use italics simply for emphasis. None of your answers or comments annoyed me. If I am annoyed or offended I will state so. I will try to avoid phrasing statements of judgement as fact. I try to preface things with "I think" or "I feel" when relevant. I did not intend to come across as stifling your opinions, but rather express my disagreement with them. I apologize for not doing a better job at communicating this. – hobodave Jul 29 '10 at 18:09

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .