The shopping list for people looking to eat local in New Orleans has been expanding fast as homegrown brands proliferate and more producers crop up.

In the weeks ahead, however, you may start seeing a different side of local food, one that expands to include the innovative, the overlooked or underutilized and even the invasive.

It could be on a foraging field trip to find “wild edibles” in an urban park, at a “bountiful catch” happy hour to sample Gulf seafood that doesn’t usually make it to the dock or during a rooftop dinner with a menu of wild boar, nutria, lionfish and kudzu.

These all are part of the annual Eat Local Challenge, a freeform happening and collection of events held in June aimed at getting people in the New Orleans area to eat more local more often.

It’s called a challenge because people who register for it pledge to eat foods produced within a 200-mile radius of the city for the whole month. That can mean trying to eat exclusively within this range, down to every ingredient in every meal, or it can mean a less stringent approach at different levels of commitment.

Beyond the challenge, organizers host many one-off events during June. These are open to anyone — some free, others ticketed — and they range from cocktail parties and bicycle tours of urban farms to hands-on demos for making your own local food and beverages. This year, they also bring up the prospect of invasive species as menu inspiration.

“I think people are a bit more curious now, what’s available, what’s local, and what is food,” said event founder and director Lee Stafford.

Going mainstream, deeper

When the Eat Local Challenge started, the idea of eating all local, even just for a meal to two, sounded edgier. But that was in 2011. In the years since, local food has grown much more mainstream, and now “local” is a commonplace marketing hook and an expected standard in more facets of New Orleans food.

To Stafford, that means the Eat Local Challenge can now delve deeper.

“We can go beyond the first questions of why we eat local and what it does for the environment and get into topics like wild edibles and invasive species,” Stafford said. “We can explore different ideas about food and even different definitions of it.”

That explains a wild edibles foraging walk in Audubon Park on June 18, which will be guided by a local botany professor to show the nutrient-packed plant life growing underfoot. And it’s the reasoning behind a “bountiful catch” happy hour to be held at the Warehouse District restaurant Carmo on June 13, part of an ongoing series of such events exploring the culinary potential of so-called trash fish.

Wild, invasive and fair game

The same spirit inspired the group’s upcoming Invasive Species Dinner, to be held June 5 on the roof of the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center. The event is being marshaled by David Aman, a New Orleans chef who likes to branch out with his own private catering work (he also has developed an all-heirloom menu, for instance, using foods as they would have tasted 100 years ago).

For the Invasive Species Dinner, he’s tapped a team of other local sous chefs, and together they will divvy up a haul of plants and animals that didn’t start out local but happen to be flourishing in Louisiana. The dinner has been a long time in the making, due to the nature of the menu.

“The idea is, look, invasive species are everywhere, people are upset about them, so let’s eat them,” said Aman. “You’d think it would be easy to get this together. But the supply chain isn’t there yet. So we’re trying to show what’s possible and see if we can get more people interested.”

For instance, sourcing true wild boar, not farm-finished boar, entailed tracking down trappers who could supply the animals plus acquiring a livestock trailer to truck them to a state-approved slaughterhouse for processing, a requirement to serve their meat legally.

That’s a lot of work for one dinner, but Aman sees this as laying the groundwork for something bigger. He envisions a line of prepared foods based on some of this, with Louisiana wild boar sausage or prosciutto among the ideas.

More immediately, he sees June’s dinner as the launch pad for a recurring series of culinary events, and he wants to recruit different sous chefs and others to try their hand as it evolved.

“If it tastes good, it is good,” said Aman. “We just have to show people that when you handle this stuff right it can be a lot better than some examples they might have tried in the past.”

Hands-on and bottoms up

Not every side of local food on display during the Eat Local Challenge is so exotic. More than 60 restaurants have signed up to serve at least one dish in June prepared entirely with ingredients aligned to the Eat Local Challenge criteria. At various events, you can learn to turn Louisiana rice into noodles and other produce into baby food.

There’s a kick-off party Tuesday at the Zeitgeist center in Central City; a happy hour at the ReFresh Project garden in Mid-City on June 3; a local distillery tour at Old New Orleans Rum in Gentilly on June 9; a beer-making workshop on the roof of the Zeitgeist center on June 9; and an oyster tasting and shucking session at the Curious Oyster Co. inside the Dryades Public Market on June 24.

The June calendar is full of many other events. Get details and ticket information at nolalocavore.org.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.