Foraging is not a new idea – our ancestors have been doing it for millions of years. It is only in relatively recent times that we have relied on farming and then our supermarkets to decide what we should be eating.In today’s busy world, convenience is highly prized but we are seeing a sharp rise in allergies. Our narrower diet, based on a limited range of farmed and processed foods is having an effect on our collective health.
They currently have a FREE course available to book, which is on Friday 8th June in Falkirk, which you can book via their website.
Jonathan and I went out foraging last month with Graham & Christine at Kinneil House and the surrounding park. I had meant to update my blog with this way before now, but just didn’t get the opportunity. However, finding out that they are offering a FREE foraging event with wild cooking thrown in, I wanted to make sure I shared it with you.
The two key thoughts I came away with were: a simple forest walk won’t be the same again (you don’t realise how much of what you walk past you can eat!) and that it’s equally important to touch and smell, and not only look, when identifying something. We had an amazing time learning lots about more than 16 different plants, ranging from wild garlic, hogweed and wood sorrel to elderflower and raspberry bushes. You won’t only be shown the different plants; they’ll share different recipes you can try with your foraged goods, when you should/shouldn’t eat it, what seasons are best for what plants and also warn you away from similar looking, but poisonous, plants.
I’ve included a list of some of the items I came across during our walk, with associated pictures and some supplementary information (photo corresponds to descriptor below).
Ground elder – edible, part of carrot family
Wild garlic: lovely sauteed or used in a puree or pesto
Rosebay willow herb
Birch polycon mushroom: can be sliced and used as antiseptic plaster, or used in tea
Clover root / wood avens: its root tastes like cloves (so you’d need to dig it up)
Cow parsley: (looks similar to hemlock, which is poisonous – hemlock has no hairs, round stem and smells horrible when you split it) whereas cow parsley has concave stem (seen above), smells nice and has small hairs
Hedge garlic: leaf garlic and stem mustard flavour
Nettles: good for soup
Common hogweed: when it’s you can eat the young buds or as pictured it is lovely tempura battered or fried off in butter
Elder bush: for elderberries later in the year, flowers in June, berries in September
Wood sorrel: taste like apple, good with fish, (only eat wood sorrel, if it’s in a field it’s clover – doesn’t taste the same)
Dandelion leaf: French for teeth of lion, salad leaf, roots can be used for little parsnips – roast them, dry roasted or the root can be ground down and used as a coffee tasting substitute
Golden saxifrage: edible, nice garnish, 5 or 6 yellow dots as marker
Celandine: yellow flowers as marker, which is ok to eat until purple line appears and then it’s too bitter
Hawthorne: lime green bush with sharp thorns, lovely white flowers – can eat and use flowers to make champagne
Hogweed ‘markers’: can indicate where you can find it from far away (will cook these)
Elf cup mushroom: an edible mushroom (the ones we found were a little past their best though)
Sorrel: is tastes like lemon (lovely!), great with fish, and has pointed ‘ears’ as its marker, although it can look similar to ‘Lords and Ladies’ which is poisonous but L&L has more rounded ‘ears’ at bottom – so remain vigilant!
Graham and Christine are lovely people and they clearly love exploring the outdoors in addition to sharing their knowledge with others, which helps makes the whole experience something extremely worthwhile. I’ve already made some pesto with my wild garlic, which turned out great. And I’m also drawing inspiration from the lamb shoulder dish I had a Cail Bruich last night which featured wild garlic (which is what prompted me to get my ass in gear and write up this post, but it’s got its own post to follow soon too!)
So if you’re free on 8th June, go along ! And if not, they offer other dates for trips including seaside foraging (think seaweed etc.) and a trip specifically geared towards mushrooms if fungus is your thing. Graham can also provide details of an app which can help you identify various plants if you’re struggling – advised by experts.
Top Tip: it’s really important to taste and touch what you’re foraging – don’t only use your visual senses when identifying plants.
*Please do not use the above as official identifiers, as it is purely based on my remembered knowledge and notes taken at the time – there may be mistakes due to alignment of photographs to descriptors etc.