Monthly Archives: February 2014

Sea cabbage and the politics of foraging.

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Sea cabbage Brassica oleracea

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Not sure if this is a lucky accident or deliberate but useful having such a lush green veg by the back door.

Went for my first coastal forage of the year on Saturday armed with everything I’d need to collect a large haul of shellfish, so I was a little disappointed when I couldn’t find a single mussel. Tried a beach Ive never been to before, Staithes then walking along the beach to Port Mulgrave and back along the cliff tops. Its a beautiful place just a little further up the coast from Whitby.

However even though I was without protein I was delighted to find Sea Cabbage in abundance, for a plant which is quite rare it was everywhere. With such a profusion of plants I thought it would be fine to take a couple of handfuls but there lies the problem, not can I take but should I take? The media recently seem to be focusing in on the ‘gangs’ of foragers stripping the countryside of it’s native plants and fungi. Recently 15 people were in court for collecting fungi from Epping forest.

For those people who collect commercially I have no sympathy, nothing is going to give foragers a bad name more than people who turn a resource into a commodity. Like most wild food collectors I take what I need and only when I can see it in abundance not stripping a solitary plant or picking every fruit from a bush. Even if you take out the ethics and conservation issues it makes little sense destroying a harvest for the future, making sure there is enough to set seed or keep on producing means you can keep coming back to it, surely that’s the whole point of foraging? tapping into a resource not destroying it.

I think that as a forager you feel a sense of stewardship for an area, the life of the insects and birds etc which rely and have always relied on that patch are all part of it. Considering the bigger picture is important for me, I don’t need to pick and gather from the wild, I want to, I need to remember that I’m sharing this resource and it’s not just there for my benefit. Pick mindfully.

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A few of the rare wild greens.

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Suburban fuel foraging

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The gas bill arrived today and for the first time I didn’t tut, it was in fact cheaper than last year, partly to do with a so called ‘reduction’ in prices but the exact amount of gas we’ve used is half! from 5625 kWh to 2509 kWh. I put this down to two things, 1 we didn’t use the central heating until November and 2 we’ve been using the wood burner more than last year. Using the stove not only to heat the house but cook on has made a massive difference.

Having a wood stove is seen by some as a middle class toy or only for those lucky few who live in the countryside but if you care about your environment and want to save money I’d say you can’t go wrong. After the initial cost of instillation your next issue is fuel cost, there’s no point saving on gas if your spending hundreds of pounds on fuel, that’s when they become a toy.

I used to think that the only way to be totally self-sufficient in fuel was to live in the countryside because where else did wood come from? However having spent a year living in a small hamlet I realize the country mouse is not always better off than his townie cousin. If you live in a house surrounded by fields it might be beautiful but your access to fuel is limited to your nearest woodland, which may or my not be private or even someone’s livelihood, on the other hand living in the town opens up a mass of free fuel opportunities.

You don’t have to walk far in the suburbs to find a skip, these are the suburban foragers friends the trick is to see whatever’s inside as a potential fuel. As long as it’s not MDF or chipboard it’s free warm for you. I used to walk past skips that didn’t have pallets in but now a broken chair, carpenters off cuts, anything wooden gets brought home and chopped up.

Pallets are an obvious one and many places are more than happy for you to take them off their hands, just remember to ask first some companies reuse them. It’s surprising how a few pallets can heat your house for an evening. Another place to look is charity, junk and auction houses they often have things which are unsellable or broken, most places will happily give you something that’s destined for the tip.

Last year a neighbours tree blew down in a storm so I offered to saw it up for them if I could keep the wood he was only too happy and we ended up with about a weeks worth of fuel. Every time we go out for a walk in a park or in the woods around the city I make sure I at least pick up one piece of wood however small, if you do it all year you’ll soon have a ready supply. I’m going to have to get a trailer for my bike or perhaps a trolley so that I don’t miss out next time I leave the house, having set my foragers eye for fuel as well as food has made me realize I should never need buy fuel again.

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Next years fuel is stacking up nicely we are aiming to fill this by the end of the year.

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A family that knits together…..

A family that knits together.....

I just wanted to post a photo of the blanket my girlfriend has finished crocheting together. Six members of the family have knitted different squares of this baby blanket for the newest member of the family. i love the idea of these family made blankets, I have a blanket than I’ve had since a child which was made by my great grandma and her sister, I love it and the memories it holds within every stitch.

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Strange fairytale edibles

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Scarlet Elf cups

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Jelly ears

These must be some of the oddest edible mushrooms lurking in the undergrowth on a wet February afternoon or stuck to the underside of a dead twisted Elder they couldn’t be more fairytale.

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Salami and Chorizo finally ready!

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It’s not without a great deal of pride and excitement that my Charcuterie experiments are complete. These meaty gems have been hanging around since November and every few days Ive been out there poking, peeking and perusing their porkine perfection. Finally this morning i tried them for the first time and they are excellent if I had to be critical I’d say that they are a little fatty but they taste great.

I’ve experimented with lots of self sufficiency brewing, growing, rearing chickens etc and Charcuterie has been just as pleasing, rewarding but more importantly better quality and cheaper. The last local made chorizo I bought was £5 for one a little larger than a normal sausage. The 3 salamis and 2 chorizos I’ve cured has cost less than £10.

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