Valeria Margherita Mosca
Chef, Forager, and the Director of Wood*ing Wild Food Lab
Valeria Margherita Mosca is an in-depth and interesting Italian woman: chef, forager, and director of Wood*ing Wild Food Lab, the world’s first food lab for researching and cataloging the use of wild foodstuff for human consumption.
She works in close contact with various organizations, both national and international, which are involved in research linked to the environment and to sustainable food.
Her scientific research is aimed at cataloging the wild edible ingredients available in nature, identifying invasive species that endanger the biodiversity of each territory, and harnessing their surprising gastronomic potential.
Her goal is to make accessible, real and possible the concepts of food sustainability and cooperation with the environment.
Born and raised in Brianza, a graduate in Cultural heritage preservation and an important experience in Giancarlo Morelli’s kitchen at the starred restaurant Pomiroeu in Seregno, she founded Wood*ing, a laboratory for research and experimentation on the use of wild food for human consumption and nutrition.
Gathering spontaneously growing plants, fruits, seeds and roots, research into the artisan culinary techniques of the past, and the biodiversity of our ancient crops generate, following research, an infinite database of indigenous genetic material, organisms, cultural practices and ideas.
A database which is, at the same time, capable of preserving our identity in its strongest and most authentic form; and which can, through its richness, open up for us the possibility of high-level culinary experimentation, conveying the clear intention of safeguarding the environment.
The result of those efforts is a bar in Milano, several books and Selvatiq, a special beverage brand born from the meeting between Valeria and Charles Lanthier, an entrepreneur expert in the launch of unconventional drinks.
After presenting, last February 2020, the first line of Wild Nomadic Spirits which includes a gin, a vermouth and a bitter, the research activities and the spirit of adventure have brought the creators of the brand to the wildest coasts of the Mediterranean and in the Alpine forests with two sodas. And the realization of a revolutionary concept: to create a product that is the result of a real synergy between man and the environment.
Tell me about your passion for foraging: when you started your research?
My passion for foraging began thanks to my grandmother who was a forager for an amaro that has now become very popular in Italy and in some parts of the world.
The long trekkings with her pushed me to reinterpret an uncontaminated natural environment as something that could be important for subsistence. That offered an infinite possibility of use in gastronomy due to the complexity of flavors and organoleptic tones plants, trees, fruits, mushrooms, etc offers.
From that moment on, I had the feeling that using the communicative lever of gastronomy and subsistence to describe the complexity and delicacy of an ecosystem could be a very powerful way to disseminate concepts such as collaboration with the environment and its protection. Explaining through the creation of a cooking dish or a cocktail that an environment is a complex organism of relationships in which man has his role is a very fast and effective way to create a new environmental awareness.
Right now, we have many projects to demonstrate that learning to recognize and use wild food represents a true avant-garde for the protection of biodiversity that identifies the territories around us.
In Italy and in the rest of the world. We are actively collaborating with many local institutions such as Legambiente, Mountain Wilderness, Ersaf and we have extended some collaborations up to the University of California David of San Francisco, the Basque Culinary Center, and many other research institutions.
We aim to support these scientific research institutions with the wealth of knowledge we have developed at the wooding Lab.
Why did you decide to orient yourself from cooking towards the art of mixology?
Cooking and mixology are both a way for communication and dissemination of our scientific research. It is easy to describe complex issues such as the balance of an ecosystem or the identity of a territory based on native biodiversity and its protection through a dish or a cocktail.
Sitting at the table or sipping a cocktail - thanks to our approach - is a very powerful way of spreading knowledge that we believe is important to spread. Until the advent of the industrialization of food production, foraging wild food was a piece of widespread knowledge. When foraging also becomes an environmental protection tool, the human footprint on the natural environment can become less dangerous.
How do you manage to find a balance between technology and nature?
I think it is very important to find a balance between technology and the environment. It is no longer possible to go back to life as it was only a hundred years ago. We have different needs and we have organized our lives on the exchange of information and on mass production.
Using technology to make production or the study and observation of pristine environments or the nature around us more efficient is a real opportunity to aspire to a world in which the production of raw materials, products, and therefore also of food is truly in accordance with the needs and resources of our planet and consequently ours.
We are part of the planet's biodiversity, making our technology available to the environment is a very positive way to imagine the future.
The first time we met you gave me a press kit with a kit of 'pulp of birch flour'. I remember that many journalists did not know how to use it, but today you finally managed how to. Are you happy about the results?
Without a doubt, many things have changed since our meeting and I believe that real new environmental awareness is gradually awakening.
All the efforts I have made in recent years to disseminate the concepts of environmental protection through foraging and the study of natural territories and their peculiarities are aimed at obtaining a change in the way we interpret the nature around us.
From something to use, to something we can call home.
How much has the current Covid-19 emergency situation impacted your work?
Our work is mainly research-oriented, so covid has not penalized our work so much. However, our line of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks Selvatiq which, being sold mainly in restaurants, wine bars, gastronomic boutiques and some bars, needed a reformulation of its distribution.
We decided to focus everything online and the effort we made has had a good result.
For the Wooding lab the only activities we have interrupted are both amateur and professional-oriented courses.
What do you think could be the biggest lesson of this 2020?
In my opinion, Covid-19 has forced people to rethink their role in nature. I have never seen so many people seeking true contact with the natural environment as in the period between the first and second lockdown in Italy.
I think it is a real opportunity to rethink yourself as part of a larger and more complex organism. Basically, it was a virus that put us in this situation of paralysis, it forced us to feel vulnerable in the presence of nature, and that this is a signal that we can no longer ignore.
Future plans for the coming year?
We have many new projects, two new books coming out, new collaborations and a new laboratory to be inaugurated.
The Wooding lab has in fact moved to the Creda headquarters to the heart of the Monza park, which is an ancient water-powered mill that was used to crush wheat and corn for the guests of the royal villa and for the court. The place is so beautiful and evocative that we can't wait to open its doors to our partners and journalists.