For a foraged feast, go where the wild things are

Volunteers from Polk County Conservation and Django kitchen staff have been combing through the forests of Jester Park for ingredients to serve in the upcoming “Foraged Feast.” Photo: Polk County Conservation

Writer: Hailey Allen

Remember when you were little and you collected twigs, leaves and maybe a crab apple or two for a make-believe banquet in your backyard? That was all pretend, but local chef and Django partner Derek Eidson is serving up the real deal.

Foraged Feast is a collaboration between Django and Polk County Conservation to celebrate Iowa’s natural bounty. The alfresco dinner is set for Sept. 23 at Jester Park Nature Center, where the wild ingredients in each dish will be foraged directly from the woodsy park. Diners can enjoy an Iowa sunset while their meal is prepared over an open fire.

“We’re proud to showcase Iowa’s deliciously wild flavors just steps from their source,” Eidson told us in an email.

The Django team and Polk County Conservation have been gathering ingredients since March, curating the best combination of unique and natural ingredients. They’ve preserved wild grapes and mulberries, marinated oyster mushrooms and winter squash, bundled purslane and wild sumac and harvested other forest goodies to create the seven-course menu. Plus, just for the event, Barn Town Brewing brewed a special fruited sour with Jester Park’s wild blackcap raspberries.

“It was an exciting challenge to create these dishes based on what became available,” Eidson said. “I think it’s important for people to see just how much nature can offer us if we just get a little creative and reconnect with the land.” 
The dinner costs $150 per person, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Polk County Conservation’s raptor education program.

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