Monday, 25 April 2011

Wild food and foraging

Living in the coutryside my hubby and I often eat foods we pick up on walks such as apples, many types of mushroom, nettles, sorrel, chickweed, borage, wild garlic, many different berries and rosehips. After doing a bit of weeding in the garden yesterday I was a bit disturbed to see some ground elder creeping its way through the rockery.

But then I thought.. hmmm.. 'free food'. For those of you that haven't tried it, ground elder is actually quite tasty and can be cooked like spinach. The small waxy looking new shoots are very nice eaten raw in salads and are quite spicy, a bit like rocket.

If you are going to eat anything wild please make absolutely sure what you pick is safe. I strongly recommend you get a good book but if you aren't sure whether foraging is for you The Wild Food School offer a free 50 page Urban Foraging Guide which is available to download from their website.

Food For Free by Richard Mabey is, in my humble opinion, the definitive foraging book. First published in 1974 and reprinted many, many times since then. There are several versions available but my favourite is the handy pocket size book.

When it comes to mushrooms I would urge you to be extra cautious and never pick anything you are unsure of. There are some excellent mushroom identification books around. We have the pocket guide which is pretty good but seem to often forget it when we go out on foraging walks!

Mushroom Picker's Foolproof Field Guide is a much larger book and is definitely not pocket sized but has some great information and tips on drying and preserving too. it also has a chapter on the poisonous ones so clearly identifies which mushrooms to avoid.

When you have got some goodies you need to know what to do with them. Our favourite is an ancient book Hedgerow Cookery by Rosamund Richardson-Gerson but there are many more trendy versions around now including a Hedgerow Handbook from the River Cottage folk

There are a growing number of excellent websites and news articles with information and recipes for wild and foraged foods. A recent one I came across was Wild about Weeds in The Ecologist

Fergus Drennan has been foraging for years and has appeared on TV and written many articles in the press. Wild Man Wild Food is his website and he offers foraging courses in the Canterbury area. There are a vast number of unusual recipes in the magazine articles on the website including some fantastic nettle recipes and a Japanese Knotweed and Quince Crumble - that's not one I've tried myself yet but there is some knotweed up the road so might give it a go later in the year.

Eat Weeds near Sidmouth in Devon and The Wild Food School in Lostwithiel in Cornwall have some excellent recipes on their websites and also offer foraging courses.

Some people are also advocating eating insects, they are a great source of free protein and eaten in many countries, but I think I'll write about that another time! 

I have set up an Amazon AStore with a selection of my favourite foraging and  wild food and medicine books. Have a look and see what you think - and let me know if you think I've missed out some good ones. 

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Saturday, 9 April 2011

Firewalking fun..

When I told people I was going to walk on hot coals to raise money for charity the response generally was something like this.

'Why?? You must be mad!'

Strangely enough, I have done fire eating and fire breathing (which I was pretty good at!) A group of us learned how to do it at a friends 40th birthday party...don't try this at home!

Myself and friends Sophie Wild, Penny Lowe and about 20 others were all firewalking to raise money for the lovely folk at Lineham Farm Children's Centre. The event took place on the farm on Thursday evening with a crowd of cold but enthusiastic friends and relatives cheering us on. We got there late afternoon and the weather was fantastic. We had a walk through the woods and met some of the animals, then had some food before we got ready for our team talk. Everyone seemed very calm and relaxed about it all, until we got the disclaimer forms to sign, then that got some people worried!

Sophie and I doing a practise run without the fire!

The 'Learn or Burn' seminar we did before the walk was at times really hilarious. Thanks to Tony Ferrol for making it so enjoyable, entertaining and not at all scary. What actually went on is top secret but I can say it involved lots of laughter, shouting and some very peculiar Peter Pan impressions. I've no idea what the people outside thought we were up to!

Getting warm now...

The walk itself was over so quickly. I remember standing at the beginning waiting to go and stepping on to the coals but then really can't remember anything until I got off the other end. My feet were a bit sooty but completely unharmed. Amusingly, the gravel path was much more painful on the feet than the coals were. Lots of people took photos but they actually didn't come out too well.. so this is the only one of me in action. My pink fleece flapping in the breeze makes it look like I have wings!

Me in action!

Yorkshire TV were there filming and apparently there were clips of us on Calendar, the regional news programme on Friday. Unfortunately, even though we live in Yorkshire, we can't get Yorkshire TV and end up with Granada and all the lovely news from Liverpool and Manchester!

Huge thanks to Tony and all the guys and girls from Blaze Firewalking for making it such a great evening. I can heartily recommend them if you want to do some fundraising with a difference.
Whatever you do.. don't try this at home!!

You can still donate direct to Lineham Farm via their Just Giving page

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Pictures of Plants and Fungi in Homeopathy

This is a fantastic area on the Natural History Museum website. There is some excellent information and pictures of hundreds of plants and fungi as well as lichens and algae used in homeopathic remedies.

This is the work of Vilma Bharatan who is a botanist at the NHM.

Plants and Fungi in Homeopathy

Gelsemium Sempervirens
The homeopathic remedy Gelsemium is
often used to treat the symptoms of flu

The illustrations in the website reminded me of an excellent book that I have somewhere but can't seem to put my hands on at the minute! It is called 'Dangerous Garden: The Quest for Plants to Change our Lives' by David Stuart. He is a botanist and his passion for his subject really shines through every page. There are many wonderful pictures of plants in the book that are still in common use in homeopathy and herbalism. It is full of enthralling tales of poisonings, plague and pestilence, aphrodisiacs, mysterious mass hallucinations and much, much more. I do love reading Culpeper and Gerard but this is a herbal book with a difference!

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