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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