Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Foraging and Feasting on the Lizard

A couple of years ago I was invited to do a piece on Radio 5 live about foraging for food from the wild. This was a live discussion with John Wright, author of the River Cottage foraging books. I think I was brought in to offer a counter argument, defending the rights of wild plants and animals to remain ‘un-foraged’ in the name of conservation. Unbeknown to 5 Live, I am also a keen forager and agreed with pretty much everything John had to say on the subject.

From a conservation point of view, so long as the countryside isn’t pillaged of plants, animals and fungi for commercial gain, then I can’t really see the problem in collecting nature’s bounty once in a while for personal use. If it brings people closer to nature, making them appreciate what unspoilt and well managed countryside can offer, then foraging can only help our conservation goals.

I’ve just completed a series of three guided ‘forage and feast’ walks around Predannack near Mullion. Foraging is certainly ‘in vogue’ these days, with each walk well attended, with over 50 people putting their trust in my judgement as to what’s edible and what’s downright toxic!

Photo credit Dom Brandreth

The best times of year for foraging are spring and autumn. Spring is best for all the lovely young herbs, shoots, flowers and leaves, whereas Autumn offers the best time for fruit, nuts and of course fungi. Predannack Cliffs in May are swathed in wild flowers, a feast for the eyes if not the taste buds!

Each walk started with a short ‘Die, Starve or Survive’ game, where various plants (both edible and poisonous) were offered to those attending. I must say that had it been a real life or death scenario, not many would have survived too long. It’s amazing how similar Cow Parsley and Alexanders resemble Hemlock and Hemlock Water Dropwort and how Sorrel can be a dead ringer for Lords and Ladies!

wood sorrel (photo Jourdon)

As a reward for their ‘virtual’ poisoning, I served up some Sea Beet and Wild Garlic soup which seemed to go down well, before embarking on our walk around the cliffs.

En-route we munched on wild water mint, water cress, pennywort, rock samphire and various other tasty, and not so tasty, herbs, leaves and flowers. Occasional stops were rewarded with other morsels I’d prepared earlier such as Water Cress Omelette, Ransom pesto, seaweeds and one lucky group was treated to a wee dram of bramble whiskey!

All in all a very successful series of walks, and as far as I’m aware, no-one was seriously poisoned.

Look out for some fungi forage walks later in the year.

Happy foraging


1 comment:

  1. Well done on saying something it does no harm in foraging for edible things to eat,we were both looking forward to going pity it was raining on the day it would have been nice to see what was achieveable,keep up the foraging feasts you obviously like them and show others the edible things to eat and not edible.
    Hope there are more for you to enjoy in the future.


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