Into the wild

foraged chesnuts

Once upon a time, long before the evolution of the monetary system and corporations, it wasn’t unusual to see our ancestor’s literally defining the meaning of fast food as they chased after an antelope and dragged it home to utilise every element of the creature for food and well-being. These days the hunter gatherer in us can merely press a few buttons on an app on our smart phones and voila! Food arrives!

Unleash the beast!

As convenient as this is in the modern day society, within all of us – lying dormant, is the wild creature who is capable of heading into the wild to source food with our bare hands; or at the very least, a few primitively assembled tools.

Unleashing this natural beast provides incredible benefits for the body, soul and bank balance. To be at one with nature and to connect one’s self to the earth is rewarded with an incredible sense of place and self, diversifies the palate and helps your body fall back into the rhythm orchestrated and conducted by the natural world we inhabit. Mother Nature has provided us with a veritable smorgasbord right on our doorstep. And it’s all free.

dandelionOur connection to the earth

Over the years we have all definitely lost our connections with the environment around us. The centuries that we spent teaching ourselves which plants and berries are edible and which we should avoid, is now redundant in a world where food from across the globe can be accessed via a few clicks. But foraging for food in the hedgerows and undergrowth is beginning to prove popular again amongst a few daring souls who are not only willing to brave the elements and bring home food that hasn’t been pre picked and packaged but are realigning themselves with natures body clock alongside fresh wild seasonal produce.

Some forageable foods that are available all year round are:

  • Shepard’s Purse – flower tips can be used to snack on and leaves can be eaten raw or cooked
  • Crab apple – leaves can be used for tea and the crab apple can be used for cooking.
  • Clovers – the flowers are the part mainly used; the leaves can cause bloating if eaten in excess.
  • Nettle – nettle leaves can be cooked, eaten raw or used in a tea.

foraged mushroomsPoints to remember before you set out to forage

Foraging for any wild food should always be done with professional guidance and it is not recommended that you venture out to forage without fully consulting and cross referencing several information sources first.

If you are trying foraging for the first time, you should first seek out a reputable forging organisation, of which there are many that run all around the country.

You can find one close to you by looking on the internet.

If you are unsure about any food item, DO NOT EAT IT.

The Law

Many forgeable items will be accessible from a public right of way; nature reserves do not count as a public right of way. Certain plants may be considered ‘protected species’.

It’s not always possible to uproot a whole plant without the landowner’s permission

Rules in England and Scotland do differ.

If you are unsure if you should be foraging on a particular piece of land, you can always check with the landowner, if they are unavailable then contact your local authority for further advice.

Seasonal foraging guide

Autumn

Chestnuts – Pickle the chestnuts or eat roasted

Damsons – Jam

Crab apples – Jam, chutney or eat the leaves

Blackberries – Freeze them and add to smoothies or make blackberry jam

Sloe – Make sloe gin

Elderberries – Eat raw, add to berry fruit salads

Winter

Cranberries – Make cranberries sauce, jam or chutney and bake in cakes

Chickweed – Add the leaves, stems and flowers to salads and eat raw

Mussels and Oysters – Clean well and cook

Wild Garlic – Eat the leaves and flowers in salads or flavour olive oil

Spring

Stinging nettles – Make tea with the leaves

Elderflower – Make elderflower cordial

Mallow – Add the leaves to salads or dry to make tea

Primrose – Eat the flowers and the leaves in salads

Summer

Clover- Eat raw in salad

Pignuts – Eat raw or in salads

Some useful foraging websites and apps

www.wildfooduk.com

general advice on what foods are ideal to forage and at what time of year

www.fathen.org

a wild foraging school with plenty of blog posts about wild foraging

Foraging flashcards fall

an app to test yourself on edible plants

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Locavores and Uk sustainability

Locavores and UK Sustainability

vineyard imageUK food production, like many areas in the world has reached a point where the food we grow, produce and import is putting the environment under a lot of stress. We are living in times where preparing a simple meal could potentially be a highly unsustainable act that has implications far beyond our knowledge or reach.

What is sustainable?

To be classed as ‘Sustainable’ food must have been grown or farmed in an ecologically and ethically responsible manner using practices that protect the environment, safeguard human health, are humane to farm animals, and provide fair treatment to workers. To break it down further sustainable food should be produced, processed, bought, sold and eaten in ways that provide:

Social benefits

Contribute to thriving local economies

Create good jobs and secure livelihoods

Enhance the health and variety of both plants and animals (and the welfare of farmed and wild creatures)

Protect natural resources such as water and soil

Help to tackle climate change.

potatoes grown imageUK food production

Much of the food we continue to grow and the cattle we rear in the UK is done so in intensive farming conditions. The main aim of intensive farming is to produce one product as quickly as possible therefore inevitably other areas will suffer: loss of ecosystems, global warming and the treatment and welfare of the animals and so on.

There is a substantial amount of produce available to us from other countries. Importing is not a new concept; we’ve been bringing in produce from overseas for centuries but modern methods have turned that produce into a carbon-intensive commodity. There is less emphasis on the social aspects of food production and consumers tend not to know where the food they buy has come from; the gap between farm and fork continues to grow.

Buying locally grown and produced food and supporting British high welfare farms is the way to increase sustainability. With the rate of modern life evolving and the modern technology that allows us the capacity to bring produce to our doorsteps from another country– ordering food by mail order is so easy and done at the click of a few buttons with little or no available information of the heritage of the produce. Although buying local equates to UK food sustainability, the transition isn’t as easy for some as it is for others. Because a vast majority of the food we eat is mass produced and/or made cheaply in another country, it is more cost effective to buy from supermarkets where this produce is readily available at an affordable price.

Intensive farming and heavily processed foods have evolved to the rate where by the fast paced world we exist in is making it fairly difficult to get back to basics. Yet many are trying and succeeding.

BLACKBERRY BUSH IMAGEThe rise of the locavore

Many companies nowadays are prepared to give away plenty of information about where the produce has come from, how it was farmed and how it arrived. Restaurants are boasting ‘heritage’ fruit and vegetables and many eateries will only serve food that has been sourced within a certain radius, bringing in the new concept of a 20 – 30 mile menu.

There are many consumers that have found a way to incorporate produce that is made here in the UK into their diets and even some who will only eat food that has been grown and sourced within a certain radius, usually within their own county or neighbouring counties; from fruit veg, meat and dairy to cordials, wines, champagnes and chocolates.

These people are being branded, “locavores”. Whilst the world locavore has been bandied about in articles and blogs recently, this modern sounding cultural species is not a new one.

BLUBERRY IMAGEEvolution of the locavore

The locavore, someone who sources all they eat from within their local area, has been present amongst us for a long time. Homo sapiens have been locavores – sourcing everything they required for their dietary requirements within a fairly small radius for centuries. They had little option and what they couldn’t source, they would go without. The choices were limited to what fruits and vegetables were in season and what animals were using that particular area as their habitat. Whilst the conditions could sometimes be fairly bleak and baron, the choices often limited and the journey from the wilderness to their mouths an arduous task, they became fairly adept at stealthy methods of stalking and being frugal with their produce. Couple that with their tool making skills and mobility, our ancestors were highly efficient hunter gatherers.

And as they became more resourceful over time, so they evolved to the species we are today, therefore how they lived was efficient enough to allow evolution to naturally progress. The truth is we still have everything around us today that we need to survive. Supermarkets only started appearing at the beginning of the 20th century. Our own species evolved some 190’000 years ago (although some scientists argue longer) Humans have lived as locavores for 99.76% of our history. This means we have only spent 0.05% of our entire existence living with the concept of convenience foods, industrial farming and supermarkets. Yet to get back to basics seems a gruelling task.

woman on smart phone imageBridging the gap with technology

The intersection of food, technology and sustainability are relatively unexplored in UK but gaining momentum all the time, particularly in the US where they are way ahead in terms of awareness and action.

Technology to raise awareness about sustainable living in the UK is way behind the rate at which technology is being used to create unsustainable food. But it is happening. There are lots of websites and apps that are available and more are being developed all the time and sustainability evolution on a technological level represents an area of opportunity for innovation.

Consumers are once again becoming more interested in where food comes from. When it was once not even an area of debate for our ancestors, helping people making better more informed choices about the produce they buy is essential to creating a more sustainable country.

2016 is the year when the concept of food sustainability really hits a heightened awareness level The ‘big four’ supermarkets will continue to lose share as they have done for several years and new market places and services will start to replace the services they offer. This is good news for all those services that provide sustainable produce backed up with the relevant information that consumers need and wish to know.

A high percentage of people are still concerned with cost and will source cheaper convenient produce over sustainability and quality, but with many consumers waking up to the impact of food production on the planet and our economy, it means the targetable market for sustainable consumers is wide open.

Here are a few of the websites and apps that give help advice and support to consumers seeking high welfare and sustainable goods:

FOODNATION – an app that helps people in the UK and Ireland discover local food

WWW.NESTA.ORG.UK – a website that promotes food sustainability innovation across the planet.

LOVE FOOD HATE WASTE – an app that gives recipes based on your leftover ingredients.

WWW.FOODFORLIFE.ORG.UK – a social site linking institutions with consumers to educate and inspire