Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A feast in the wild

Our ancestors have been feasting on wild foods for the whole history of time, it has just been the past hundred years or so through the invention of the supermarket or convenience stores that many of us are now out of touch with nature and fending for ourselves. Most of us (if we are honest), have no idea of the origin of the everyday things that we consume to nourish our deepest being. No longer are we able to identify the things that will feed us nor those that will poison.
I've been foraging for about ten years now. It started with familiar blackberries and rose hips from the hedgerow but has developed into knowledge of many of our native plants throughout the year. If you know what you're looking for there is a whole feast to be had and all for free!

It's exciting to discover a new edible plant and new ways in which to use it, and it becomes quite an interesting topic of conversation when something thought of as a 'weed' is served up to friends.

I've come quite a long way since my stinging nettle fritters that (let's say)....left an interesting 'tickling' sensation in the throat as they slipped down....hehe!!

So today a lovely friend of mine organised a walk with a sweet and knowledgeable chap who runs a stall on the Stroud Farmers market. He sells his foraged finds and offers advice on discovering nature's bounty of delights.
So I enthusiastically joined the clan with my four (my niece included) less enthusiastic children for a walk around Stroud and three hours of priceless knowledge.
Of course I had the usual moans and groans at the prospect of three hours of doing 'weird' stuff. They love it really my children. They do complain at the thought but when you actually get them out into nature's playground they thoroughly enjoy the elements and all that the divine power has provided for them. It was more exciting following a different and unfamiliar route on unknown territory. Lots of new things to see and discover.


The key to enjoyment is to 'be prepared'.  I do remember one thing from my Girl Guiding days!! So warm coats, old clothes and wellies are just the ticket, along with drinks and snacks for famished growing bodies of course.
I had the usual 'I'm not eating that, a dog might have weed on it...or a hedgehog....or an ant!!' 'Lead by example' I say and just don't think about it. Having said that, obviously don't eat things growing around a lamp post or on serious dog fouling ground. You just have to use your head really.
There are so many things to learn, so much to digest (quite literally) that it really can be quite confusing. My advice is to learn a few new plants a year to add to your repertoire...that way the confusion lessens and just as you're becoming familiar and very sure of one set of plants it's time to familiarise yourself with another lot.

Today I learnt that you can eat daises. I knew you could eat dandelions (flowers and leaves) but never gave daisies a thought. Mmmmmm they are delicious and well worth a nibble......might be nice in a salad, or perhaps a egg mayo and daisy sanbo??
Another plant that I've known about for years is 'cleavers' or 'sticky willy' as my children and others call it. It's out already and at the moment is at its most succulent and not as tough as it becomes later in the year.

I'm quite familiar with Summer pickings now but really don't get out much in the Winter months, especially when the weather is as dull as it has been recently and stopping to pick leaves is certainly not the first thought on my mind when it's bitterly cold. But it's good to know that there is stuff out there even in Winter.

Fen found a dead newt

There are many books out there on foraging, it's worth investing in one before you give it a go so that you've got a point of reference, or alternatively join a guided walk. Most plants are perfectly safe but there are a few that can make you very sick. I invested in a copy of Richard Mabey's 'Food for Free' many years back, it's a good little book with lots of interesting info and makes a good starting place.

Playing in the gap where a tree had been wrenched from the ground during recent storms

Miss P commented on the way home 'You know what Mum, I was the only 'normal' person there'......Oh well, you can't win them all!!!

1 comment:

  1. I have to admit I have my reservations about just eating picked food, my rule to the kids was they can only pick wild fruit that is above their waistline, or higher. But nothing odd about foraging!