I’ve been using seaweeds in and as food for long enough now. I’ve got into the the swing of which seaweeds to match with what recipe and amounts to use. Dulse (Palmaria palmata) with potatoes is traditional, in bread feels natural and, I feel, has […]
Author: Rachel Lambert
Coo-ee, here’s a little insight into one of the songs I’ll be sharing in The Singing Forager Experience – where we’ll be learning about the seasonal plants through songs, facts, stories, touch, sight and taste. Not that I recommend tasting sloes raw, though that could […]
My memories of Summer are, inevitably, interlaced with foraging.
Plants and food, namely wild food, has long been an integral part of my life. One that I choose not to live without.
Earlier on in Summer I wrote about keeping things simple and shared easy ways I turn picnics and barbeques into events with a wild twist, from seaweed breads to seaweed salads, wild salsa verde to elderflower cordial. Summer, after all is meant to have a holiday feel, so labouring over lavish meals doesn’t make sense for me – that’s for Autumn and Winter!
My most popular foraging plant in Summer
Without a doubt, the wild food that most features in my Summer is Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum). Lining cliff walks, evenings on the beach, and wild swimming spots, I find it so easy to gather. Back home I can make a Rock Samphire Salsa Verde from it within minutes, then back on the beach to share it with friends or family. And it always, always goes down a treat, such a punchy, lemony, herby flavour, hence its nickname Sea Fennel. What more does a Summer forager need?!
Where to find Rock Samphire
If you’re living in North Scotland, I’m sorry. If your on the east coast, you’ll have less opportunities to forage this compared to us Cornish and those on the west-side. I’ll leave it there.
In August I took 4 days out to walk the North coast path in Cornwall with a friend – 25 miles of up and down, lots of giggling and achy limbs. I slept well on my return. While my walking companion took photos of us and the fantastic views, I found myself defaulting to pictures of beautiful edibles. Rock Samphire on the cliffs, too far out of reach to clamber for, the drop below being too large to risk.
As Shakespeare wrote; ‘Half-way down, Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!’
My ideal Summer
Rather than risk my life, the words and phrases I associate with summer are; balmy air, sand between my toes, people everywhere, stopping to pluck, pick or gather, soft grass, undulating ground, dozing on the cliffs, rock samphire salsa verde, sunsets, lemony scents, rushing out, got to be out, sea swims, lake swims, wild camping. Barbequed fish, crab sandwiches. Minty desserts, drying herbs for teas, looking out to sea. Laughing, beach fires, chilly post-swim skin, happily tired. Happy dog, heather, rosebay willowherb flowers, purple hues, short nights and long days, intense, will it ever end!?
Ideally my Summer is full enough to allow me to fall, glide or merge into Autumn. I can relate to Alys Fowler’s words on suiting autumn better – woolly jumpers and all. Soon I’ll be ready to have evenings in, cook feasts, do more nature writing, contemplate, meditate and lazily read. Though not quite yet….
How was your Summer? What were your best memories?
I run foraging courses throughout the year, and in-between my own adventures with friends and family. I love to share my passion for wild foods, my knowledge and the journey along the way – I will never know it all!
I still remember the first olive tapanade I ever had. Rich olive puree, decadently lathered onto toast. Years later I created my own seaweed tapanade for my book: Seaweed Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in which I matched the seaweed Egg wrack […]
Ahhh, blackberries (rubus fruticosus), our native super fruit, so full of flavour, fibre, vitamin C and K. Pretty much everyone knows blackberries, actually it is blackberries that makes many people a forager, yes, if you’ve picked and eaten wild blackberries you are a forager!
I love to pick and munch these wonderful fruits as I walk; staining my hands and getting the vitamin C hit that my body is often craving this time of year. Traditionally I would make a large, annual blackberry and apple crumble; feasting on the fruits of a foray with friends and filling up on autumn’s bounty.
This year they’ve come early, I’m scattering them on my morning muesli and dreaming of hot buttered toast lathered with freshly made blackberry jam…
There are many ways to make a good blackberry jam. Myself, I like to include the pips and the substance of the fruits, and not strain all that fibre and texture out. It is a jam I’m longing for, not a jelly. This is my favourite jam recipe, tweaked over the years, and enjoyed every autumn through to winter. Here’s an image of my lovely thick jam, made with whole blackberries for a great texture and feeling of sustenance.
(Blackberry jam using the whole blackberry fruit)
Here’s my recipe, actually, I call it a ‘Blackberry Preserve’ as it preserves the blackberries whole. This recipes makes 3-4 jars, so hopefully enough to see you through winter. I use soft brown sugar to add extra depth, blackberries also contain natural pectin, making them perfect for jam making (no need to use jam sugar nor add apples). Obviously, do adjust the amounts depending on how many blackberries you pick, and remember to leave some for others and the wildlife.
Blackberry Preserve Recipe
1 kg blackberries
1 kg soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
In a large pan, combine the blackberries and lemon juice and over a medium heat, simmer for 10 minutes and mash the blackberries slightly with a wooden spoon to break up. Add the sugar, stirring regularly and bring to a rolling boil. Once boiling, do not stir and cook for 20 minutes, or using a jam thermometer, until the mixture has reached 105°C. Pour or spoon the jam into sterilised jars. Once opened, keep in the refrigerator. Makes about 1.6 kg of jam (approximately 3- 4 jam jars).
(The empty pan after cooking blackberries in it)
I recently visited the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle in North Cornwall. It was a humbling experience and a mixture of information about old folklore practices, wise women and men and myths and images of the ‘witch’. I left with the knowledge of how lucky […]
As August has been unfolding I have been sneaking up to the moors and delighting in the tinges of purple, pinks and yellow as the heath-land takes on its late-summer coat. Bell heather (Erica cinerea) is the first to appear with her larger purple bell-shaped flowers. Followed by heather, also known as Ling (Calluna vulgaris) with its smaller, pinkish flowers. Bright yellow Gorse flowers (Ulex europaeus and Ulex gallii), one of my favourite moorland plants, are scattered throughout.
When the air is warm and the wind is blowing the right way, I love breathing in these subtle scents, of which heather also have a reputation for inducing sleep. Being softer than the prickly gorse bushes, I can say from experience that heather makes a great springy bed to take a nap on, and so hardy that it just bounces back afterwards. I wonder how many weary travellers have used heather in this way, as a single plant can be up to 50 years old.
I, almost, find it enough to gaze at this undulating landscape of colour, smell it and doze on it. However my foraging memories usually drive me to gather a few sprigs for my kitchen creations too. Previously I’ve worked with a cook at a National Trust property who made heather syrup to drizzle over mini steamed puddings – delicious. Though I also simply like tea.
Apparently ‘moorland tea’ was one of the poet Robert Burns’ favoured tea. His version was heather tops (ling) combined with the dried leaves of bilberry, blackberry, thyme and wild strawberry. It sounds like a perfect heath-land combination and I’m sure Robert Burns knew a fair few things about tea. Yet, how one likes a brew is such a personal thing. For me, my go-to combination is bell heather and gorse. Perhaps because I know these two so well, or perhaps because I haven’t tasted Robert’s 5-herb cuppa. I’ve made a mental note to try and recreate his moorland tea blend, though meanwhile bell heather and gorse are so easy to spot that I find myself returning to my own mix.
When and where and how to pick
Heather and gorse can be found in heath-lands, moors, bogs and mountain slopes across Europe and North America. The presence of heather usually indicates poor soil, as it prefers mildly acidic soils and thrives best when it has good exposure to sunlight. Over the last 200 years the amount of moorland in the UK has reduced by over 80%, hence more recent efforts to preserve and protect these areas and the plants and wildlife that rely on it.
I love sitting by heather and watching the bees feed and taking my time to pick a few flower heads from each bush, ensuring my foraging efforts are practically invisible. Gorse is always in flower somewhere (as in the UK we have 2 varieties that also hybridise) and heather flowers from July through September.
My moorland tea mix and how to make it
A blend of fresh gorse flowers and bell heather flowers can be used to make a herbal tea, though I prefer to dry them. That way, I can make tea when I want it and use it through autumn and winter. Today’s a perfect herbal tea day – rainy and cool outside and ideal for hot, soothing drinks.
I dry the flowers on tea towels in a warm place. It should take two days maximum. Then I place in clean, sterilised jars and use a teaspoon or two of each herb for a cup of tea. It is good with a spoon of honey in too. As I sip my homemade moorland tea, I’m temporarily transported to the moors where I see, smell and nap on these late summer bushes and am flooded with good memories again.
I’ve been having some humble tea experiences. Not just because tea is a humble, everyday drink, but because I’ve been trying to make a fermented black tea from wild greens. And the result, so far, is humbling. I’d been researching the history of tea drinking, […]