What do you fancy as an appetiser? Was that whitebait or worm patties, huhu grub sushi or battered snails?

You will be spoiled with choices at the Hokitika Wild Foods Festival, a culinary celebration of the Kiwi’s innovative ability to ‘live off the natural resources of the land and sea’. The West Coasters known as a resilient and self-reliant people, and when they offer you their traditional hospitality, lifestyle and food, it is polite to accept graciously. You know what they say, ‘When in Rome’……..

The Wild Foods Festival is an annual one day event, which takes place in March each year at Cass Square in Hokitika township. It runs from 11 am to 5.30 pm and a rollicking dance is held in the main marquee in the evening.

This giant extravaganza of the Coast’s best gourmet ‘bush tucker’, must surely stand out as one of the weirdest culinary events on this planet. The locals take it very seriously and go to great lengths to procure novel, tasty and healthy wild foods. Perennially popular treats are possum pie, fried locusts, ostrich, eel, paua (abalone), oysters, venison (deer), kangaroo, and of course that good old desert standby, sphagnum moss-candy. The stallholders offering these choice delicacies have been heard to entice participants with the words “Here you are, if it doesn’t move go ahead and eat it”. And they really do. The Festival draws a crowd of 20,000 people, six times the population of Hokitika.

Given the success of this gourmet gastronomic event, it is little wonder that the sponsors follow it up with another event around July. The Monteith Brewery’s ‘Wild Foods Challenge’, dares chefs to match one of the company’s fine beers with any wild and wonderful dish of their choosing. The brewer’s best is paired with nature’s best, with the condition that the food must not be farm-raised. ‘The Challenge’ dishes are consumed with great relish and everyone has a fun experience of mind over platter.

So if your holiday coincides with either of these events, shed any inhibitions, and when the grub’s up, tuck right in. But be there early because ‘the early bird gets the worm!’