This weekend, on Saturday, July 22, you can hike through the woods, indulge in alternative cuisines, and get drunk right after lunch. Renowned wild foods expert Pascal Baudar and Ojai native-plant guide Lanny Kaufer are joining forces again after the success of their first collaborative event last year. This year’s event, titled Wild Gourmet and Medicinal Beers, will feature a nature walk through Los Padres National Forest, wild-foraged snacks, and a beer-crafting demonstration using similarly foraged ingredients.
Baudar, a resident of Los Angeles, has served as a wild food consultant on shows like MasterChef, has worked with L.A.’s top chefs to incorporate wild ingredients into their menus, and is the author of probably the most comprehensive guide to wild foods in Southern California, The New Wildcrafted Cuisine.
Baudar says he was first taught to use wild foods from his surroundings when he was growing up in Belgium, where foraging was a way of life. Baudar credits the amount of time he puts into research for his spotless record: not one mistake in 17 years and counting. In one instance, he studied one plant for five years before he actually used it. Driven by an underlying passion and unwavering obsession, the self-described culinary alchemist is foraging for something new: alcoholic beverages, specifically beer brewed with Mother Nature’s ingredients.
“I started doing a study about primitive and wild beer approximately 10 years ago,” Baudar explained, with the goal of finding ingredients already available in an environment and using them to brew beer. That means no barley and no hops, in accordance with pre-agricultural methods of brewing. As laborious as the process might be — the amount of foraged ingredients that goes into certain brews has passed 70 — it is also conceptually not too dissimilar from standard brewing. But obviously, correctly balancing bitter and sweet flavors using mushrooms, mugworts, tree saps, and even ants takes a whole different kind of homework than your standard at-home brew kit.
One example is Baudar’s Vermont Forest Beer, which includes Bog-myrtle (Myrica gale) and ground-ivy (Glechoma hederacea), components that were also used in ancient Celtic and Viking beers. His recipe calls for the crushed remains of around two-dozen carpenter ants to inject a flavor similar to sour citric acid; vegans can skip this step.
Wild Gourmet and Medicinal Beers with Pascal Baudar and Lanny Kaufer is on Saturday, July 22. For more information, visit herbwalks.com.