Sunday, 18 October 2015

Food Foraging Fun

My foraging result - Blackberry and apple crumble
Way back in the summer when the days were long and the hedgerows were full of flowers I went on a food foraging workshop, organised by Solway Wetlands Partnership. The day was run by John Crouch a local chef who knows a LOT about traditional food, foraging for it and the history of it. He has a wealth of information and his enthusiasm for playing with hedgerow food is contagious.I don't know a lot about foraging and so I thought it would be a good idea to find out. There are too many poisonous plants out there to just start foraging and as John advised never eat anything you are unsure about. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I went back for another day in Autumn...

Toni doing some summer foraging
Honeysuckle flowers - great in salad
An afternoon workshop with John involves heading out along the local lanes and fields to see what you can find. He does bring along some of his own bought ingredients and then heads outside to see what he can supplement his dishes with. In the summer we concentrated on leaves and flowers that could be either cooked in dishes or made into salads.

Rose hip petals
Elderflowers - great for cordial and fritters
In the autumn we basically headed out along the same lanes and fields and it is amazing to see the different food on offer through the transition of seasons. Basically the flowers had gone and the fruits had grown and the leaves were starting to turn.

The transformation from Elderflower to Elderberries!
Crab apples
In the autumn there was blackberries and crab apples in abundance and it has to be said that apple and blackberry crumble is one of my favourite dishes. We also had a look for damsons but this year has not been very good for them. Some people have suggested this may be to the late frosts that we had earlier in the spring.

Damsons are sparce this year
Bulaces are just like damsopn but rounder and more plum like
Yum yum - just like a plum!
We found the odd damson dotted around on the bushes but not enough for making jam or gin! We did however also find a few bulaces. These are a similar fruit and taste just like plums. I have never tried them before - so a new one for me, I thought they were delicious. Damsons are not really palatable raw and elderberries should never be eaten raw - they should always be cooked first.

On both the summer day and the autumn day out we took our gathered leaves and fruit back to the kitchen to then start cooking. To be fair John did all the cooking and we just sat and watched in awe!

Apples and Blackberries galore
Horseradish - gathered locally by John
John is very organised in his mobile kitchen. He gets 3 or 4 dishes all going at once and at the same time talks you through what he is doing. He also adds in plenty of anecdotes about each plant that he is using. John also knows a lot about Roman food and what they ate. He also knows about the origins of some of the plant names.

John cooking away in his mobile kitchen
Bacon and hawthorn filo roll
Elderflower fritter
In the summer some of the dishes John created were Saag Aloo using plantain leaves, nettle and lentil soup, bacon and hawthorn filo roll and elderflower fritters which were just amazing! He also created a salad using flowers such as honeysuckle and some more of the hawthorn leaves. I remember eating these as a child and we used to called the bread and butter!

Chicken with blackberries
Warm blackberry trifle
 At the autumn workshop John used his talent again to create some delicious food. He made a jus out of the elderberries, a chicken dish with blackberries and he mixed the crab apples with spice and cooked them for a very small amount of time before popping them in a pickling jar. The remaining blackberries were made into a warm trifle which was just amazing. 

John is such a great, cheerful and knowledgeable man. What I like about him is his willingness to share all the knowledge that he has. He is passionate about foraging for food and wants everyone to share this enjoyment. If you ever get a chance to go to one of his workshops it is well worth it. I was so inspired by John that after each workshop I went out, gathered some of my own leaves and fruit and got cooking. My crumble is at the top of this blog! And not wanting to finish on a serious note but I have to say it again...only forage for and eat what you know and know how to prepare it - if you have any doubt don't eat it...there are some poisonous plants out there. Do what I did and get yourself booked on a course - they are a great way to learn and meet new people!

No comments:

Post a Comment