Saturday 16 April 2011

Hunting and Gathering

As referenced here, husband and I recently went on an expedition to Dorset for a foraging day with lovely Mat Follas, of Wild Garlic fame.

I've already told you about the beautiful apartment we stayed in and the awesome dinner that we had, so now I want to talk about the actual foraging.
It's going to be fairly brief, as it turns out that I'm entirely useless and didn't manage to take Any Photos At All on the day. Silly Jennie!

So, having spent the night in the apartment above the Wild Garlic, we schlepped down the stairs to the restaurant a few Tuesdays ago to meet our fellow foragers at a time that wouldn't seem unreasonable to most, but was not totally easy for all members of the Jennie Party (just as well we were only 30 seconds away, I think).
We were greeted with coffee (or not-coffee for uncivilised non-hot-drink-drinking people like me), criticisms of the appropriacy of our shoes and introductions to our Glorious Leaders, Theo Langton (forager extraordinaire) and Mr Follas himself.
After a brief chat about the day, we set off up the road to hunt for Tasty Things.
Within about 15 metres of the door, Theo was already pointing out edible growth and we were excitedly gathering around, gazing, sniffing and nibbling at leaves and flowers.
By the time we'd walked for ten minutes or so, we'd already admired (and tasted) dandelion, toadflax, nettles, valerian (beloved of our kitties - I should have brought some home for them), hedge garlic, violets, wild chives, burdock and primroses amongst lots and lots of other things which I probably can't remember, as well as having some (really quite entertaining) advice on things that it might be better not to eat. Theo had loads of great information and stories about all the things we found and Mat dispensed handy tips about cooking and eating with them.
We continue along roads, past graveyards, through fields and woods, over hill, over dale etc finding other lovely things (like sorrel - I must find a place to forage this nearer to home - or maybe grow some - it's massively expensive to buy and, honestly, doesn't taste anything like as good as it does straight from the plant) until we reach a clearing with more wild garlic than I have ever ever imagined could be growing in one place. We gaily frolicked, picked and ate handfuls of it (all vowing to come back another day with giant containers) before piling into a minibus (I think Mat secretly wants to be a bus driver) and careering back down the hill to the Wild Garlic.

We happily drank more coffee and ate (delicious) brownies there for a little while, before jumping back into the bus and heading off to the seaside, where we found loads of sea kale (apparently pretty rare, but hard to believe it on that particular beach) and, crazily, horseradish, which we cheerfully picked bit of and munched as we walked along the beautiful sea shore.

To end the day, we drove back to town for a late lunch, which I, once again, singularly failed to photograph.
We ate a delicious, foraging themed meal and all continued to incessantly fire questions at Mat and Theo whilst eating spelt risotto, lamb with wild garlic pesto and eton mess - yum and also yum.

Before we left, Mat gave out goodie bags containing stylish Wild Garlic mugs and also wild garlic seeds to take home and plant in our own (or in my case, my parents') gardens. We can't plant them till probably August. I'm finding it hard to wait!

The foraging day was a fantastic introduction to finding (and eating - though to be honest, that's not something we have massive problems with anyway) wild food. We were absolutely enthused and ordered the recommended book as soon as we got back upstairs (and ran out to collect wild garlic to bring home the next day). I'd love to go back in summer and autumn to see what other cool things we can find - I might even remember to photograph some things next time!

Details of the foraging (as well as seafood and cooking) courses are available here and one can be yours for the very reasonable price of £95, including lunch and, if you're lucky, tasty chocolate brownies :-)
I thoroughly recommend it!

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