Foraging in Switzerland

DSC_0287I just came back from an 8-day trip in Switzerland with my uni. We visited the Italian southern part of Switzerland (ValPoschiavo) then traveled up towards Uster, Zurich, Basel, then towards Lucerne, and finished back into the Italian part in the Ticino Canton. It was an amazing trip, we saw so many interesting biodynamic producers and farms, we did a lot of foraging for wild herbs, met cookbook/catering people and ex students of my slow food uni and saw what they were up to, we saw cheese (Emmentaler) and chocolate products producers and visited both the cities and the countryside. Switzerland is a beautiful country, everything is kept perfectly, the houses, the landscape, the gardens etc. and it all seemed so idyllic: perfect grass, sun shining, cows grazing happily on the fields, and wood stalked geometrically precise besides homes. We were super lucky with the weather so that did its part of course, and came back with a tan!

Many were the highlights of the trip, but if I have to narrow it down it would be these 3:

1. I loved foraging: we dedicated two days to it with two different women. One of these is called Meret Bissegger and she’s known as the Queen of foraging in Switzerland. We picked wild herbs all day and then prepared so many dishes with it later in her home. Some of the herbs were nettle, dandelion buds, wild garlic, hops sprouts, and so much more. One of the dishes that struck us the most were the Dandelion buds that we later prepared as “black olives”. Basically you have to pick the buds when still closed and have a ball shape, then you put them in a pan with quite a lot of olive oil (they’re like sponges!) and make them become dark brown, then have them as an aperitif!

2. We visited two biodynamic farms, one close to Uster, one close to Lucerne. the first one is concentrating on its project “chickens with brothers”, basically the farmer wants to grow a chicken race suitable both for laying eggs and for meat. (In today’s industry there are two hybrid species for chickens: laying hens or broilers. When the hens make males these are killed the second after their birth, which means that 50 % of the chicks are killed). He works with Demeter, which is the main organic and biodynamic label in Switzerland. In both farms, we could tell how happy the animals were, they lived in a dignified way. The cows had names and the owner gives them attention every day, petting, talking to them, taking care. They live a stress-free life until the end (the farmer specified he takes the cows to the be slaughtered himself and stays with them until they die).

3. We got to visit an intensive pig slaughterhouse. This was an incredible opportunity because in the Eu it is impossible (I think illegal) for people to visit these places. Also here it was difficult to organize the tour but somehow we got in. The one we saw is the biggest pig slaughterhouse of Switzerland, they kill 2500 pigs a day, which is a much lower number if comparing to other countries (i.e. Germany’s biggest does 10’000 a day). We saw the ENTIRE process…from when they arrive in the trucks, to were they get “stored”, how they get killed, and all the different processing procedures till the packaging of the meat. It was so Intense that we all had headaches for the rest of the day. A girl in the group stopped eating meat for the rest of the trip.
Something like this should be seen by anyone that consumes meat to be knowledgable of how it arrives to their plate. The fact that it is illegal/not possible to visit livestock farms and slaughterhouses is already a sign that what you end up seeing is not as “gracious” and could prevent people from consuming, but we as consumers need to have the right to know where and how a product we consume comes from.

 

4 Comments

  1. Amber – can’t wait for you to forage around here and prepare us a meal (as long as you don’ poison us).

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  2. This is a great article. Very interesting and well written. Can’t wait to talk to you this summer and get even more facts. It sounds like one of your best study trips so far. Love, Bep

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