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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