Wild Foods Trend Gaining Traction with Restaurants and Packaged Food Companies

September 15, 2016

By Betta Stothart

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Raking Wild Blueberries has been a pastime in Maine for generations.

Food lovers across America are waking up to the resurgence of Wild Foods – a way of life and a way of eating that was celebrated a half-century ago by the late Euell Gibbons in his famous series of 1960s-era books (Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Stalking the Good Life, A Wild Way To Eat). A 1974 television ad for Grape-Nuts cereal actually featured Gibbons famously asking viewers: "Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible." Gibbons became a household name with that ad, and so did wild foods.

 Recently, an article in EATER (circulation 2 million) revealed just how far wild edibles have come, and particularly, the potent little Wild Blueberry, which is dominating the Wild Foods trend sweeping (once again) across America. The article states that one of the biggest hurdles is simply to educate chefs, restaurants and consumers that there’s a stark difference between wild and cultivated foods (yes, those huge, mushy, tasteless berries are NOT wild).

Screen_Shot_2016-07-07_at_4.48.00_PM.pngIn New York City, people are lining up for Clinton Street Baking Company’s famous
Wild Blueberry pancakes.

 Restaurants & Food Companies Experiment with Wild Blueberries

In a meaty feature-length article, reporter Lisa Elaine Held examines the rising locavore trend and reveals how authentic, untamed Wild Blueberries are poised to experience a renaissance. EATER showcases a host of celebrated chefs, restaurants, and packaged food companies that are seizing the opportunity to ride the Wild Foods trend and incorporate more Wild Blueberries into their menus. Among them:

  • Luke’s Lobster (started in 2009 in Manhattan’s East Village, now in 7 states) just unveiled The Wild Blue Salad: a lobster tail on arugula, with roasted sunflower seeds, cannellini beans, shredded red cabbage topped with a pile of Wild Blueberries. In addition to the salad, Wild Blueberries , are featured in six recipes from bruschetta to gazpacho, in the their cookbook Real Maine Food
  • Clinton Street Baking Company (with restaurants in NYC, Toyko, Dubai & Singapore) is serving “Pancakes with Warm Maple Butter and Wild Maine Blueberry.” People are lining up for these pancakes and they have become something of a media sensation.
  • Colicchio & Sons (rated by Time.com as one of the best restaurants the world) Chef Stephen Collucci considers Wild Blueberries an extra special treat. “Maine blueberries are coveted little gems of sunshine for me and the pastry team," he says.

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  • Vinland (Portland, Maine) renowned Maine locavore chef David Levi uses the wild blues year-round in his Portland, Maine, restaurant. You can find them in shrubs, salads, dessert, and even dried with seaweed. Last February, Levi hosted a mind-blowing dinner in Manhattan for editors and influencers that showcased wild blueberries.
  • Harvest (the iconic Harvard Square restaurant) Executive chef Tyler Kinnett is a big fan of Wild Blues. He says the concentrated flavor of Wild Blueberries pairs perfectly with meat dishes, such as pork. This Cambridge restaurant has been featuring wild foods for decades.
  • Tako (a surf-vibe restaurant located in Pittsburgh) offers handmade tacos of an Asian persuasion and a selection of Wild Blueberry inspired beverages. Tako beverage director Erika Clark fell in love with Wild Blueberries on a trip to Maine and now she makes shrubs with Wild Blueberries to use in cocktails throughout the year.
  • Panera’s top-selling Wild Blueberry Scones are a constant on the Panera menu.
  • Clif Bar has a brand new Wild Blueberry Almond Trail Mix Bar
  • Stonewall Kitchen’s Wild Maine Blueberry Jam is a longstanding best-seller.

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  • This month, Organic Valley released a 6-ounce Grassmilk Wild Blueberry Yogurt Cup. The 100 percent grass-fed cup features cream-on-top, whole milk yogurt crafted from 100 percent grass-fed, non-homogenized organic Grassmilk milk, along with organic wild blueberries.

Screen_Shot_2016-07-07_at_4.50.25_PM.pngChef Tyler Kinnett plating a dinner at Harvest.

What American chefs are saying about Wild Blueberries

It’s illuminating to see what leading American chefs have to say about Wild Blueberries and how they’re using them .

“The same storytelling we bring to our lobster, we want to bring to Wild Blueberries.” – Ben Conniff, Luke’s Lobster

 “One of my favorite things to do with Wild Blueberries is to make an agrodolce for meat dishes.” – Tyler Kinnett, Harvest

 “I absolutely love the taste and aesthetics of these berries; they’re the epitome of the saying 'good things come in small packages.’” – Stephen Collucci, Colicchio & Sons

 “The wild have a very concentrated, nice burst of blueberry flavor more than the cultivated ones.” – Neil Kleinberg, Clinton Street Baking Company

 “We were looking for a salad that was really healthy and screamed ‘summer.’” – Ben Conniff, Luke’s Lobster

 If you’re a restaurant or packaged food company that’s seeking exceptional ingredients that will your differentiate your brand, consider the wisdom of the late Euell Gibbons. He may have not been the world’s leading brand expert, but he did comprehend the timeless, indisputable power of wild food.

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