Forage to Feast
Forage to FeastBack to News
In our last Off The Record blog, we spoke about growing your own vegetables, and the satisfaction that comes from cooking with food you grew in your back garden. However, not everybody can grow plants large enough to produce fruit in their own home. This is where foraging comes in!
Foraging is a really enjoyable, and sustainable, way to gather free food from the wild. I particularly enjoy foraging because it forces me to slow down, and use my senses when I’m walking around nature. Every day, we walk over and past a variety of edible plants that we don’t even know about! For example, did you know that nettles are a great spinach substitute? (Don’t’ worry, they don’t sting you once they have been cooked!). Or that dandelion roots closely resemble the taste of coffee?
Recently, I was taking advantage of the longer, warmer spring-time evenings and I came across the most beautiful woodland canopy, towering above a blanket of bluebells. My home county, Dorset, is very fortunate to have such an abundance of this native flora, thanks to our ancient woodlands. I stopped to appreciate the beauty and attempted to capture the sight, although the photograph really doesn’t give it justice! But, there was an unusual smell in the air…a very garlic-y smell. On further inspection of the woodland ground, I found thousands of wild garlic leaves, buried beneath the vibrant blue flowers.
Well that’s dinner sorted! I gathered a couple of handfuls of wild garlic from various areas in the forest, being vigilant not to take too many leaves from one plant, and I proudly took home my foraged foliage.
I have foraged wild garlic a couple of times before, so fortunately I knew exactly what to make: Wild Garlic Pesto Pasta! Here’s my recipe:
100g wild garlic (or 70g with 30g spinach for a less intense garlic flavour)
50g parmesan cheese
50g ground almonds
1tbps olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
- Simply put all the ingredients into a food processer and blitz until smooth.
- Then, mix in your favourite pasta so it is well coated, top with a bit of extra parmesan if you fancy, and enjoy!
If you want to try out this recipe with foraged wild garlic, then you will most likely find wild garlic carpeting the banks of streams or rivers: they love wet ground. Having said this, I came across it in a woodland area, so if you’re anywhere where the ground stays a little damper for longer, make sure you’re using all your senses and look out for that subtle garlic smell.
But how about some other tasty plants to forage?
Have you ever noticed those tiny fluffy “clouds” perched on the end of tree branches towards the end of spring and early summer? Those are elderflowers! Perfect for making elderflower cordial to serve at your next summer BBQ.
Let’s be honest, you have probably picked blackberries before without even associating it with foraging. Blackberries appear in the autumn months, in abundance from October. They are the perfect addition to an apple crumble, or on top of a pavlova. They also freeze really well!
In my opinion, mushrooms are the most fun and interesting food to forage. When you start to look really closely at the autumnal, woodland floor, you begin to see a rainbow of these alien-looking, plant-like fungi. From bright orange coral that pokes out of tree trunks, to black, powdery balls sticking onto rotten fence posts, mushrooms pop up everywhere! However, if you have never picked mushrooms before I highly recommend going with a professional forager, as fungi can be very deceitful. Remember: never munch on a hunch.
I hope I’ve inspired you to get out into the wild and start looking, or smelling, for your next tasty, free, dinner ingredient. Here are some useful websites for a little more info on how to get started:
Your foraging calendar, learn what you can forage and when:
Sign up for a foraging course in the UK:
Get familiar with poisonous mushrooms: https://www.foragingcoursecompany.co.uk/mushroom-foraging-guide
Good books for even more information:
*Disclaimer: if you have little to no experience with foraging, you should consider working with an expert forager to ensure you are picking foods that are safe and healthy. We do not recommend foraging on your own if you have never done it before or are uncertain of what is edible and what isn’t. Always consult a professional if you are unsure.