Meet Pål Karlsen - Selected Title Author

We are happy to present our selected title author Pål Karlsen. He has written The Foragers – Custodians of Nature (original title: Sankerne). The book is one of NORLA’s Selected Titles of the spring 2023.

Read our interview with Pål here.

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Pål Karlsen. Foto: Adrian Nielsen/NORLA

The image that inspired this book

While working on Porcini. Born to be Wild (2014), I came across a photo that directly inspired The Foragers, which initially had the working title Life at the Edge of the Woods. I love this photo; it’s incredibly fascinating. There’s something vulnerable, something dirty, something rough, and yet beautiful at the same time. The photo says a lot about who does the hard work of getting the boletus from the forest to gourmet restaurants and about how the raw material is processed in the first step. Ignorance is bliss…

Having attended a number of mushroom events around the world, I can honestly say that this photo is accurate. That’s exactly the way it is. In a few years, though, this way of collecting will be gone. The quality chain will force its way all the way down to these foragers. Will they make it through the transitions, or will be they replaced by companies with trained employees?

I hope the boy and his colleagues make it into the modern harvest. They deserve it.

I’ve searched far and wide trying to figure out who the boy is, who took the photo, and where and when it’s from. It’s one of these pictures that’s become public domain online, shared on and on from one low quality version to another. No one has had an answer, but there’s a lot that indicates the photo is from Romania. Someday, I’ll find out more.

What is the book about?

Over the past thirty years, I’ve been active in the Norwegian edible plant and mushroom foraging community and am trained both as a mushroom inspector and edible plant expert. I’ve slowly had my eyes opened to how important knowledge about edible nature is – not only for the individual forager but also for society at large. In foraging, traditional knowledge meets new ideas about nature management and food safety.

The more foragers I’ve met, the more clearly I understand that those who harvest from nature are the first to want to take care of it. That’s why foragers are nature’s best stewards.

But who are they? What do they have in common? What drives them? What will foraging conditions look like in the future, with a greater focus on the conservation of nature and biodiversity and areas disappearing under asphalt and new builds? Is foraging a threat to what we like to call “untouched nature”? What kind of future do foragers and foraging traditions have?

The goal of this book is to contribute to an understanding of foraging as a valuable activity for society. Foraged goods are essential to food security by developing knowledge about a rich world of food far beyond the few monocultures we currently base our lives on. Foraging counteracts the alienation around the origins of our food that is common in modern society. Foraging won’t ever replace shopping in the grocery store, but rather increase the respect for what we put in our shopping carts when we’re there.

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Foto: Adrian Nielsen/NORLA

Read more

See full presentation of the book here

Read more about the author

See all NORLA’s Selected Titles for the spring 2023 here