Travel

We picked and ate some wild plants in Hong Kong’s countryside

Mar 29, 2019

Wanda Huang is a forager for high-end Hong Kong restaurants and spends her days roaming abandoned farmland and paths to pick delicious plants. We hung out with her for an afternoon and learned about the world of wild, edible plants.

Wanda Huang is a Canadian-born, Hong Kong-based forager and educator.
Wanda Huang is a Canadian-born, Hong Kong-based forager and educator. / Photo: Nicholas Ko

For the video, she met us at a fishing village and led us through a hiking trail, to a waterfall, and eventually to a piece of privately-owned farmland, where we picked and munched on plants that grew on the side of the paths.

I’ve noticed that foraging tends to elicit eyerolls, especially among those who reside in large metropolitan areas. It’s often derided as a pastime for privileged hipsters or—on the other extreme end—something that poor rural people do.

But my personal passion in foraging lies in its utilitarian purposes.

But my personal passion in foraging, one that started in Los Angeles, lies in its utilitarian purposes. Wild plants are much more resilient than their domesticated counterparts. They literally grow on the side of the road. They don’t need pampering. They easily reseed themselves.

And as you’ll learn in the video, many of them are actually more nutritious than the stuff you can get at stores.

Chinese mugwort growing wild in the Hong Kong countryside.
Chinese mugwort growing wild in the Hong Kong countryside. / Photo: Nicholas Ko

Today, conventional agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change. It’s responsible for 14 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, and if soil degradation continues, there will only be 60 years of topsoil left.

If more people and farmers were to eat and grow these hardy roadside plants, we’d be able to diversify our diet and wean off our dependence on conventional agriculture—or at least provide an alternative to it.

Foraging in the Hong Kong countryside.
Foraging in the Hong Kong countryside. / Photo: Nicholas Ko

Across China, there’s ample knowledge of traditional plants tucked away in remote villages and the countryside. Chinese people have been eating and experimenting with native plants for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese medicine was born from this principle.

But industrialization is pushing people further away from the source of their food and local ecosystems.

Wanda Huang with the author.
Wanda Huang with the author. / Photo: Nicholas Ko

I like to imagine a future where we eat more plants that are either naturalized or native to our respective regions. The locavorism movement started off with environmentally-friendly motivations: eat and buy from local farms and restaurants to reduce the amount of fossil fuel it takes to get your food.

I believe the next step is to be mindful of whether or not the food we eat is easily grown in our respective ecosystems—and to take inspiration from the weeds.

Hong KongForagingAdventuresEnvironmentWild Series

Credit

Host and Producer: Clarissa Wei

Videographer: Nicholas Ko and Joel Roche

Editor: Nicholas Ko

Mastering: Joel Roche