A short video about foraging in Autumn and talking about how I got into foraging, the benefits and how to get started. This was a fun video to make on a rainy, Cornish morning and is perfect if you're new to foraging.
Discover my answers to the following general questions about foraging;
How did I get into foraging?
I met lots of interesting people in my twenties who knew a lot about foraging that they were happy to share with me. I just thought it was great; nature, walking, food!
What led me to want to teach foraging and share this knowledge with others?
I've always taught in some capacity, and I think it's important to keep the knowledge of foraging alive, as we're at risk of loosing this skill.
What can people expect on a day out with me?
I offer public foraging courses and private forays which are tailored to each group. Though the basic format is this: We go on a leisurely wander and normally cover 8-10 wild foods; where to find them, how to identify them, recipe suggestions and their uses. Then we normally sit down and enjoy pre-made wild delights together.
How can you get started?
A good, basic rule is: If you're not sure what something is, leave it. There are poisonous plants around that are obviously best avoided. And remember to check who the landowner is as well.
Are there any guides to picking the right things?
There's lots of information out there, so it's important that you choose your sources well. I've two pocket foraging books that you can use as practical wild food guides. It's also really helpful to have a foraging guide by your side.
What's the best thing I've ever found?
I don't think I have a favourite, but at the moment I'm enjoy sea buckthorn berries and sloe berries. Sea buckthorn berries are a wonderfully sharp, sour fruit and perfect for Sea buckthorn curd and to swirl in Sea buckthorn cheesecake.
When's the best time to go foraging?
Anytime really. Spring is best for leaves and shoots, Summer for flowers and berries and Autumn for fruits, nuts, seeds, roots and fungi. Winter can be great here in Cornwall as it is mild and quiet and there's a great range of wild foods on offer too.
How do I find good places to foraging things?
Good question! I suppose I walk a lot and wherever I walk there are things to pick. I just remember places and return in the right season to pick what I'd seen. For my foraging courses I generally choose circular routes that I've mapped out and checked several times too.
When do you know when a sloe is ready to pick?
When sloes are ready to pick when they're a lovely dark purple/black colour and have a bit of give when pressed. Ideally they are best after the first frost, as frost softens their skins and sweetens the flesh.
What can you make with sloes?
Other wilds I mentioned;
A couple of months ago I lost my sense of smell completely. My world changed and everything tasted of cardboard. Fortunately it was only a temporary loss due to a virus, though it was a fascinating and slightly scary experience. I've always known how important my senses are to me; foraging engages my vision, touch, smell, taste and intuition. To be without two of these (smell and taste are so dependant on each other) was odd and left me functioning in a very different way. I'm the kind of person who always stops to smell flowers - I find it a life affirming way to engage with the world.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is one of my summer scents; scattered along the coast path and beaches in selected places in Cornwall and commonly on the Isles of Scilly. When the sand is hot and the air is warm it is a lovely whiff of refreshing aniseed to breathe in. It's scent also makes it easy to identify.
Indigenous to the Mediterranean, it is well known and used to aid digestion and has naturalised in many places across the world. It's been used in fish and seafood dishes, and I like to use it in bread and desserts. I think it is perfect as a dessert - an after dinner digestive which is full of soothing flavour.
In my first book - Wild Food Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - I shared a recipe for fennel sorbet and fennel flower-head fritters, though you can use the same recipe for fennel ice lollies (images above). I also have a great Wild Fennel Bunyols recipe, which was inspired by my Catalonian friend, Marta and are perfect for Autumn or cooler days.
The sorbet and ice lollies are so full of flavour and they use the foliage of fennel - the leaves and young stems which are often over-looked. I highly recommend experimenting with these parts too.
Lapping waves, sweet smelling hedgerows, and glorious walks and forays in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were the inspiration for writing my first book; Wild Food Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Which does what is says in the title.
Something worth sharing, I thought, something regional, specific and practical for these areas that I love and know with my forager's senses. The culmination of several years researching and teaching, several musing over possible book titles and angles, and a 9 month focused period from book proposal to sending the final product to the printers.
(Photographs from the Book; Bermuda Buttercup on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly)
It would be appropriate to mention that creating a book is a collaboration (you just need to look under 'Acknowledgements' to see some of whom I'm grateful to). Right from the beginning, the idea and content were honed by friends, colleagues, editors and of course my publisher; Alison Hodge - a joyful collaboration I might add.
From a young age my two loves of working with people and being creative were quite apparent. I have pursued both through my adult life; combining both as much as possible, as in this book. Armed with a camera, computer, books, kitchen equipment and a whole load of ingredients, both wild and bought - I aimed to capture the essence of 16 differing plants and 5 seaweeds, potential recipes, from facts to cooking tips. This was a project I loved.
(Dishes from the Book using Bermuda Buttercup ~ Oxalis pes caprae)
It was a busy period leading up to launching such a book, like having a party really - celebratory, though with lots of background work with invites, food, drink and a little media. I spent the morning of the launch (Thursday 7th May ~ Election Day actually), cycling out of town to forage ingredients for making wild pesto, and after lunching and voting, I set to in the kitchen, with my mother to make mountains of Three Cornered Leek and Nettle Pesto, and Sea Lettuce and Wild Carrot Seed Bread.
(Preparation for, and Three Cornered Leek and Nettle Pesto tasters at the Book Launch)
When 6pm arrived, we wandered up the main street of my home town; Penzance, to Edge of the World Bookshop, laden with bread and pesto, having changed out of both cycling clothes and kitchen aprons.
Guests started arriving, wine flowed (and ran out twice!), and tasters from the book enjoyed. There were shop keepers, b&b hosters, musicians, builders, walkers, web designers, health practitioners, council workers - indeed, Cornwall, food and nature lovers from all walks of life. The till was ringing, as books were perused, signed and there was a great hum of chatter throughout the shop.
As the evening progressed, the food was devoured - even the edible flower decorations were eaten - hurray! There's hope for our county eating up all the invasive weeds after- all.
By the end of the evening there were just 4 books left of the 70 that had been ordered by the bookshop earlier that week. Pretty good going for a thursday evening in a small town in Cornwall. Though of course the story does not end there... The book has now been on sale for over 2 months, and is slowly seeping into bookshops, delis, hotels and cafes on both the mainland and the islands.
Haven't got yours yet? Available locally in shops and food outlets (do feel free to suggest it if you can't find it locally yet), also available from this website, and on amazon.
Retails at just £5.95 and comes in a handy pocket size with 90 photographs. Spread the word - it's been described as a clear, practical, useful book with beautiful photographs to help with identification and tempting recipes.
Photos: Plants and Recipes - Rachel Lambert, Book Launch - Aspects Holidays