Category Archives: Wild Foods & Foraging

Learn how to find and collect delicious wild food for free.

Spring is here

Spring is here

Meteorologists conventionally define each season as three months long and spring in the UK as March, April and May. The spring Equinox is on 20 March 2015 – this is when the day and night are approximately the same length. In the southern hemisphere, 20 March is the date of the autumn equinox.

In temperate parts of the world, spring is the season that follows winter and is associated with the fresh growth of vegetation, germination of dormant seeds, resuming of activity in hibernating creatures and the start of animal and plant reproduction. (thanks Woodland Trust for this description)

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Foraging for wild garlic

Mmmm wild garlic I love you so much!

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Yesterday we went foraging for wild garlic in our local woodlands, within walking distance from Blackpool town centre, the leaves are vibrant and the flower buds are aching to open. It’s the perfect time of year to collect some leaves and turn them into garlic delights. Remember the foraging code though, only take what you need, I only take 2-3 leaves from each plant to leave enough for healthy growth.

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Vegan wild garlic soup feed 3 for 38p!

This is the best time of year to start foraging for wild garlic, its deep green shoots and leaves are growing steadily in woodlands around the UK, the strong smell you get as you walk by, wafts through the woods and forests giving a heady scent of garlic and you know spring is here.

Grab yourself a handful, from the middle of the patch is best, the edges tend to have dog wee on them, I take a few leaves from a few different plants, that way you give the plants chance to keep growing at the same rate, take scissors and snip them off, tearing the leaves isn’t great. Don’t dig up the plants either! leave some for other people too.

wild garlic and potato soup

I made some wild garlic and potato soup for lunch, its simple to do, quick and delicious and best of all it costs 12.5 p a bowl!

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Has foraging gone too far?

We love to forage but always follow the foragers code of ethics, it got me thinking though, surely like everything else on our planet, there will be some people who don’t follow this code and rape Mother nature for profit.

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Gathering fungi in the Gwydir Forest near Betws-y-Coed in Wales. Photograph: The Photolibrary Wales/Alamy

Funnily enough The Guardian had the same thought and wrote this article below:

This has been called the year of the foragers. Every year more and more people armed with guidebooks are exploring the hedgerows to indulge in a spot of Mesolithic role-play. Something that was once seen as anorak hobbyism has slowly gained traction, probably due to the early efforts of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and even Jamie Oliver, who got into mushroom collecting a decade ago thanks to his mate Gennaro Contaldo.

The rise of the 21st century hunter-gatherer has also been aided by the popularity of eating locally and seasonally, and the recession certainly made the concept of food for free attractive. But nothing pushed this once-specialist occupation to the forefront like the media spotlight swinging suddenly on superstar chef, René Redzepi, whose commitment to this fundamental procuring of ingredients is likely what won his Copenhagen restaurant Noma the title of “best restaurant in the world”.

It was only a matter of time before concerns grew over the sustainability of harvesting mother nature’s bounty. As a forager myself, the protection of wild plants and mushrooms has always concerned me; will there be enough elderflower or jelly ear fungi for the next person? But more importantly, has enough been left behind so no negative impact is made on the local ecology?

While the organisations that care for our countryside are keen to embrace “one for the pot” foragers playing by the rules, they are worried about those gathering for commercial purposes. There are sensible harvesters that forage sustainably, but, as with every industry, there are those looking to make a fast buck: apathetic in their approach, unconcerned about the impact of their actions.

Foraging has to be done carefully, and common sense dictates that there is little point in denuding an area that you and others may wish to rely on in the future. There are many like Yun Hider, a professional forager who, through his company Mountain Food supplies some of the country’s top restaurants, that share this ideal and show concern for the sustainability of the foods they forage. In some cases just like coppicing a woodland, harvesting can have a positive effect. As Hider points out: “sea beet is often over-crowded, by removing a certain amount of leaves, we are actually encouraging growth”.

Fergus Drennan, one of the UK’s leading foragers and very much against the supply of wild foods for commercial gain, turns down at least one chef a week asking if he could supply them. Aside from the ecological concerns, he believes the connection with nature is lost by the time wild food hits the pass.

More and more restaurants, desperate not to miss out on the popularity of foraged fare, have increased the demand for wild foods. Ceps, chanterelles and oyster mushrooms can fetch as much as £25 a kilo at London prices, so it is no surprise that areas in and around the bustling conurbation are being hit harder than ever. Epping Forest, though protected by local bye-laws suffered greatly during the course of last year’s exceptional mushroom season, with some pickers being caught and prosecuted.

I have always thought that if a chef wishes to use foraged ingredients on the menu, then he should damn well go and pick them himself. So I was quite pleased to see that if you are a chef at Noma, it’s part of the job description. Even Redzepi, however, was accused of picking illegally on Hampstead Heath last year following a mushroom hunt to promote his new book.

But is it unfair to lay the whole blame at the door of the restaurants – if we, as consumers, naturally seek out foraged ingredients shouldn’t we accept part of the responsibility both as restaurant-goers and home cooks? Or are we just responding to cheffy fads and media hype?

It would be interesting to know what your thoughts are about foraging and the sustainability of it all.

Wonderful ways to use Rosehips

It’s that time of year again where foraging is in full force and there is plenty mother nature is providing for us including Rosehips, with such abundance what can you do with them? Check out this great article by Natural Living Ideas for 16 ways to use them:

16 Wonderful Ways To Use Rosehips For Beauty, Health & Happiness

Rosehips – the fruit of the rose which is left behind after its blossoms naturally fall away – is one of the richest plant sources of vitamin C on the planet. A close relative of the apple, rosehips can be used for many of the same wonderful (and often delicious) uses as its oh-so popular cousin. Read on to learn how to harvest rosehips and then how to make rosehip pie and spiced rosehip cake, rosehip-infused vinegar, as well as jams, jellies, drinks, and more!

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Low impact living in a town – what can be done?

We live in Blackpool which is a seaside resort in the Northwest of UK, population of roughly 142,000, so we are a large town. Contrary to popular belief from my photos, we live in a terrace house surrounded by neighbours and the normal trappings of large town life. So until we get our dream home in the countryside what do we do to have a lesser impact on the environment and to live a ‘back to nature’ way of life. A simple guide to our low impact living.

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Foraging for beginners

Good ideas when foraging!
Learn to identify plants correctly and investigate all their uses. Many plants are not suitable for certain long term illnesses so make sure you check them out first.
Learn to identify the poisonous plants in your area. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING YOU CANNOT POSITIVELY IDENTIFY AND DEEM SAFE.

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Allotment time, books and foraging

I spent a lovely afternoon in the sunshine today at our plot, did some weeding and dug over a bed ready for planting, planted some seed potatoes that were on offer (I normally just sprout my own in a dark cupboard), built up the next layer of compost with grass cuttings, veg peelings, coffee dregs and horse poo and then sat on a bench we made from bricks and a scaffolding plank and closed my eyes and listened to the birds and the sounds of nature all around me. It was amazing, I remembered when we first got the phone call to say we could have an allotment I said to Tom (my partner) which plot I thought it was, we had visited plenty of times on open day so knew the plots quite well, it was a middle plot with fruit trees on, when we visited to view our new plot it wasn’t that one, it was right at the far end with no trees, it was only today I realised when we moved from the half plot to this double plot just over a month ago I was sitting next to the original plot I dreamed about and our new plot has loads of fruit trees on it too!

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Healthy eating on a budget

As the prices of things go up a lot more people are being careful of what they spend or even making a choice of putting money on the electric or buying food, it’s all about budgeting and spending wisely, so I want to offer you a series of handy tip and ideas on how to budget and spend a little but still eat healthily, and make conscious ethical choices.

I have heard many times “we can’t afford to eat organic” or “we can’t afford to buy coconut oil at £6 a jar”, I understand this mindset but it is really all about prioritising and finding a way which works for you, you can do you best and that IS good enough for this moment in time, do consider though not only will you be saving money buy not impulse buying when there is nothing left for tea, you will also be making yourself and your family feel healthy and free of disease.

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Elderberries – fight flu for free!

Sambucus nigra or the black elderberry is a plant native to Europe, Northern Africa and parts of Asia

The elder tree is amazing, it’s a small to medium sized tree that can grow up to 10 metres tall. It is found in hedgerows, down leafy lanes and in dappled wooded areas. It flowers from May onwards and the black/purple berries appear in August.

It is a brilliant plant as you can use the flowers and the berries for culinary and medicinal purposes. Make sure the berries are ripe before using (a dark purple).

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