Yesterday, restaurateur René Redzepi of Noma fame launched his VILD MAD initiative. It’s billed as “a comprehensive and free resource for the public to learn about and sustainably explore wild food.” VILD MAD (Danish for, quite literally, “wild food”) is a multipartite project that includes a curriculum for Danish schools, a website, and foraging workshops across Denmark. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of VILD MAD, though, is an app of the same name for both iPhone and Android users.
Munchies has likened the app to Pokémon Go for the forager in us all, and I’d say that’s something of a fair comparison. The app isn’t a self-contained world so much as it’s meant aid you in interacting with, and better understanding, the physical space around you. VILD MAD has mapped the Danish landscape and created a comprehensive guide to what's safe to pluck from its many environments, from deciduous forests to waterways, and how to bring them into the kitchen. The app is part of Redzepi’s greater mission to transfer the curiosity that motivates him to the generation that succeeds his—he’d like younger folks to be more mindful of seasonality, and to see the world as one range of culinary possibilities.
The app's UX is relatively straightforward: Upon selecting which language you’d like to use the app in (Danish or English), you swipe through a few explanatory slides that walk you through how to use the app before it gives you the option of creating a profile, which allows you to bookmark different recipes and track what you've foraged. You can thumb your way through a list of ingredients sorted by season along with a compendium of recipes, from lightly stewed beach plantain to seaweed soup.
Many of these features are available online, too, but I prefer the experience of the app itself. It's got a soothing aesthetic, saturated with different shades of green. Again, the app’s interactive mapping capabilities extend only to Denmark, at least for now, though Redzepi has said he’d like to encourage other countries across the world to follow suit with similar initiatives.
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At the very least, the app's got quite a bit of use for those of us outside Denmark: You'll walk away with semi-encyclopedic knowledge about mugwort and its many wonders. I can only hope that the chatter surrounding the app stimulates enough interest for Redzepi, or someone else who's so inclined, to create an American equivalent. It’s a beautiful app.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.