The Wildfoods Festival: Challenge Your Stomach
For over 20 years, the Hokitika township in New Zealand has played host to a celebration of wild foods, wild drinks and wild times at The Wildfoods Festival. Last year, the festival in its 23rd year attracted a crowd of almost 12,000 local, national, and international visitors.
The event is a celebration of Hokitika, Western New Zealand, a place known for its environment. Hokitika is a culmination of mountains, sea, glaciers, national parks and world heritage areas, lakes, rivers, rainforest, wildlife, fauna and people, all interwoven in the untamed wilderness.
Last year’s festival, with over 50 stalls, offered the largest array of food in its history. “People really enjoyed the diverse smorgasbord of foods on offer, tasting things they hadn’t tried – or even thought about trying – before. With beetles and grubs for appetisers, gamey meats and fresh seafood for a surf ‘n’ turf lunch, and plenty of sweet desserts – with optional bugs – it was easy to create a flavoursome menu.” says Mike Keenan, the event organiser. The festival is known for offering something for every palate and every age.
Some of the ‘from the wild’ treats on hand were:
Wasp larvae ice cream
‘Stallion protein’ ( horse semen, apparently it tastes like milkshake)
Live huhu grubs
Worm sushi and worm truffles
Baby hopper jelly shot
Chocolate coated beetle
Stream larvae turkish delight
Wild boar skewers
Raw rabbit mince
Fijian kava (a drink with sedative and anesthetic properties)
Honey coated punga (a fern plam)
Colostrum mousse ( the first milk produced by a cow within the 2-3 days following the birth, with an extra creamy taste)
Chamois salami (goat-antelope species)
Tahr salami (variation of the goat)
Mountain Oysters (aka sheep’s testicles)
Gorse leaf cordial
As well as the lure of wild foods – and drinks – the festival included live music and culinary demonstrations by renowned celebrity chef Charles Royal. A range of awards were also given out to the stall holders, as they are each year— The Curly Tree Whitebait was judged ‘best new food’. Attendees also had the opportunity to win the best costume award. An attendee from Darfield won ‘most original’ this year with a combination of a gorilla suit with caged captive.
Another highlight from this year was the first-ever Wildfoods wedding, held on the main-stage. The couple, Eli and Liz met at the festival and have been regular attendees for many years.
Wildfoods Festival has been listed as one of ’300 Unmissable Festival and Events Around the World’ by international travel writers, Frommers. It is Guestaurant’s top ten food festivals for the Oceania region.