Raw Cultures

Founded in 2020, Raw Cultures is utilising the processes of foraging and fermentation to change the way we look at food, in turn encouraging a seasonal connection to the natural environment. Their latest release is a zine designed by Abi Beckram, a guidebook of sorts that provides the recipe(s) for successfully navigating the outdoors in pursuit of local, forageable food.


Since their conception, Raw Cultures has been exciting a new wave of sustainable consumers. A glimpse of their Instagram is awash with colour and insight; jars of vibrant red and purple sit in front of a blue background and an accompanying caption explains the myriad benefits of making, fermenting and eating the contents of the colourful jar.

WT: What were the motivations for starting Raw Cultures?

'We wanted to help in changing the way we look at food and our connection to the natural environment. We’re exploring our interests - food, culture, art, nature, technology and seeing where they all overlap. Fermentation felt like the right place to start'.
Raw Cultures

Their manifesto seeks to alter the way in which we look at food; to strengthen our connection to the natural environment and reclaim old methods of food preparation with new ideas and technologies. In an age when diets consisting of majority processed foods have replaced natural foods, Raw Cultures is seeking to restore a symbiotic relationship between our communities and the natural world. This can only be achieved with a sustainable approach to manufacture and consumption, a message encouraged by those behind the movement. Before the consumption of these restorative foods, we must familiarise ourselves with the picking of wild produce.

WT: Foraging is something you promote, can you describe how you got into it?

'We just naturally fell into it while learning about fermentation and seasonal vegetables. Its like some little radical act, exploring and finding food for free. There’s so much hiding in plain sight and the realisation can be quite transformative. Nature in its constant state of change all around us, all the time'.
Raw Cultures
‘I got into foraging fairly recently, after I discovered that my local woods were full of wild garlic. I think the main thing that I love about foraging is getting outside and exploring - it’s so rewarding when you stumble across something and cook with something you picked yourself. It’s a great way to eat more sustainably and to try new things, as well as being surprisingly accessible’.
Abi Beckram, Designer of the Raw Cultures zine

Foraging of wild garlic (photograph by Shay Allard)

Foraging is a process that encourages people to slow down; to experience and appreciate their immediate surroundings via a seasonal, wild supermarket. Most people, particularly those who have lived in towns and villages, have experience picking blackberries. My memories are of my stained fingers and the sweet aroma of their sugars released in a hot pan. Other produce from the wild aisle includes wild garlic, whose pungent scent rises from damp and green undergrowth, birthed from a change in temperature and characterising surprisingly mild spring walks. A remarkable similarity to garlic, the wild leaves are a worthy, local replacement for the traditional bulb. Even the nettle, an adversary of childhood whose sting could only be quelled by the noble dock leaf, can be consumed in multiple, delicious ways. 

 WT: What produce would you recommend people get their hands on and where could they find it during the late spring and early summer months?

‘One of my favourite things to forage in May is elderflower! The flowers come into bloom from late May to early July and can be made into cordial and champagne. Elder trees are very common in the UK, and can be found in small hedgerows and woodlands - but be careful not to mistake them for cow parsley (you can distinguish them by their oval leaves and creamy white flowers)’.
Abi Beckram, Designer of the Raw Cultures zine

As the sun permeates through the treetops of our woodland areas, the ground becomes awash with luscious green. The white flowers of the European elder characterise the changing seasons, as the shift from spring to summer promises the warmth needed for the plant to thrive. Many of us have consumed sparkling or elderflower cordial drinks; the Victorian favourite has experienced a resurgence in recent years. The sweet-smelling flowers can be steeped in a concentrated sugar solution to start the cordial-making process. By adding lemon juice and citric acid, the cordial can be preserved and the taste of summer enjoyed throughout the year. 

The preservation of food promotes sustainable consumption, a key tenet of the Raw Cultures manifesto and an important step for conscientious foodies to adhere to. Expert foragers are aware of the biodiversity of plant life, aware of the fauna that rely upon the stock of flowers and leaves to survive. Important is taking only what is necessary, ensuring that any crop can continue to grow over the coming years. Wild garlic, for example, grows in vast quantities on shaded and damp woodland floors. The stock of its bulb brethren that are purchased in our supermarkets is almost entirely imported from Spain and France, attached to it a large carbon footprint. Foraging aficionados Raw Cultures encourage us to explore a window of opportunity within which some people could opt for a local alternative, offsetting the negative environmental impact of mass imports. By no means is foraging the sole solution to solving our over-reliance on imported foods, but encouraging experimentation and exploration of wild foods, those that grow in our local parks and woodland, will only aid the shift in consumption.

As one Raw Cultures post queries: ‘could foraging be a way of reconnecting with our local environments and the habits of our ancestors – if only for an hour or an afternoon?’

WT: For someone getting into consuming fermented foods, what item would you recommend picking up first to start their journey?

‘A great beginner's recipe is sauerkraut - a simple fermented cabbage. Sauerkraut is super easy to make and is great for gut health, and can last for a good few months’.
Abi Beckram, Designer of the Raw Cultures zine
'There's so many options but kimchi brings the flavour (spicy, sour, umami) and its a great way of getting vegetables on your plate with all the nutritional benefits of fermentation'.
Raw Cultures

Fermentation is how the forager can add longevity and salubrity to their found produce. The work of Raw Cultures shows us that these recipes need not take up excessive time or resources; all people could feel the microbial benefits of fermented food by following simple steps. ‘Foods or beverages produced through controlled microbial growth, and the conversion of food components through enzymatic action’ are deemed to be fermented; humans have been consuming these preserved, enriched foods for centuries. The process can begin via two means. The fermentation of cabbage for Sauerkraut and Kimchi is naturally occurring, a spontaneous ferment started by microbes found within the food. A second method is when a starter culture is added to start the fermentation process. This is the case for the alien-like and gelatinous SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), a drink that was consumed during the Qin Dynasty of the 3rd Century BC.

Raw Cultures approach meets at the intersection between food and creativity. Their recent endeavour takes the form of a zine-cum-guidebook, created in partnership with skilled graphic designer and amateur forager, Abi Beckram.

WT: The zine is your latest creative output - can you explain each of the elements of this release?

‘The zine consists of 3 mini zines, covering what’s in season, a beginner's guide to picking, and recipes. The what’s in season poster zine guide gives insight into spring/ summer produce that you can find locally or forage, along with a fold-out poster calendar to help keep track of what’s in season for each month. The beginner's guide to picking is a mini foraging guide to help people discover the vast amount of food growing naturally in our landscapes. Although foraging may seem daunting, the guide outlines the key rules to foraging, with illustrated tips on how to forage responsibly. Lastly, the zine comes with a recipe book, containing recipes that transform seasonal and foraged produce into amazing meals - all with the help of fermentation’. 
Abi Beckram, Designer of the Raw Cultures zine

The zine is the ideal accompaniment for foragers (photograph by Shay Allard)

WT: Raw Cultures is driven by creativity, how important do you believe that has been to informing people about the benefits of eating fermented and seasonal foods?

'Creativity is so important in how we share information, engage our minds and encourage curiosity. It can open us up to new ways of thinking and bring us together. The process of fermentation and seasonal foods are in and of themselves naturally creative so it always felt like they go hand in hand'.
Raw Cultures

With the Raw Cultures zine in hand, people venturing outdoors can learn about wild foods, beginning their foraging journey with confidence. The ideal accompaniment for a foray into green space, the beginner’s guide to picking emphasises the plants to look for and those to be wary of, whilst helping amateur pickers build their confidence via responsible and sustainable means. The provided recipe book gives the novice undergrowth scavenger the means to plan ahead of time; an idea for a delicious meal can guide any foraging quest. 

For those that wish to learn more about foraging and fermentation, Raw Cultures is rapidly becoming a trusted source of information and inspiration for a generation reconnecting with the natural world. The zine quickly sold out on their website, though a restock is likely in the coming weeks. Alternatively, it can be bought at Village Bookshop and Eat Your Greens Bar, both in Leeds.


With thanks to Raw Cultures and Abi Beckram. Additional thanks to photographer Shay Allard.

Raw Cultures - https://www.rawcultures.co.uk/
Abi Beckram - https://www.instagram.com/abibeckramdesigns/
Shay Allard - https://www.instagram.com/shay.allard/

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