Tag Archives: forage

Foraging the Wharfe valley

Yesterday we decided on a whim to get the train to Harrogate and then walk the 14 miles back to Horsforth, traversing the Whafe valley. As usual we were armed with carrier bags, pen knifes, etc just in case. It was a beautiful day to walk through an equally beautiful landscape with hardly a sole around. We had not planned to forage but came across some edibles so decided to snap them up, what better way to remember a landscape, journey or view than eating it! Today I’ll make a simple wild garlic and sorrel pesto not the most exciting of foraged food but the greatest way to celebrate a brilliant day.

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Wild gooseberry bush

Though it’s a little early for gooseberries hopefully I’ll remember this bush and use it to plan another trip.

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wild garlic

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common sorrel

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Drying sage to make tea

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It’s a good time of year to cut back sage stopping it getting woody and lanky, it’s also a great excuse for drying sage. We just cut the plant back to a few inches from the ground, remove the most woody stems then blitz in a mixer and leave out to dry. Chopping it up first allows it to dry quicker which is useful if you are air drying it. You can also do this in summer meaning you’ll get a fresh flush of leaves for autumn.

This year it is going to form part of my wild and garden teas experiment. We drink loads of tea, black and fruit but we make very little of it ourselves which seems strange as we have a go at making most other things. I’m going to be trying out different herbal teas and also experiment in making my own black tea. I can see the sower faces I will be pulling in the near future but hopefully I can find some alternatives to shop bought teas that will become new favorites.

Sage Tea (Salvia Officinalis). Ā As a herbal infusion it has many medicinal properties. Sage acts as a relaxant for nervous disorders and depression, also as a disinfectant / antiseptic in the treatment of mouth ailments and stomach pains, it’s also good for brain function.

http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-sage.html

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The taste is not as strong as I’d first thought but I can’t seem to get the taste of a roast dinner out of my head, not entirely a bad thing. I shall wait for the brain function to begin.

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Kale Yard soup

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I I feel that finally I’ve cracked winter and spring green growing for years I’d had a few successes but never enough to make more than a token gesture at dinner time. Its the end of February and we’ve had Leeks, Artichokes, Salad leaf and 5 types of brassica all ready for the kitchen for the past few months. In a bid to celebrate this bounty I decided to make a ‘half the garden soup’ with what I had to hand in the veg patch.

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5 Cabbage Kale Yard Soup

Bunch of Cavolo Nero

Bunch of Russian Kale

Bunch of Curly Kale

Bunch of Spring Cabbage

Bunch of left over Wild Cabbage or you could use Purple sprouting Broccoli leaves

5 Leeks

4 medium Potatoes (the last of my pink fur apples I had in store/had forgotten about)

5 cloves of Garlic

Veg or Chicken stock

Sprig of sage and thyme

Wash and chop the leeks, Crush the Garlic and add to a large pan with a knob of butter and the chopped herbs, let them all sweat. As that’s doing its thing wash and remove the tougher stalks from the Cavolo Nero and the Curly kale but the others should be fine as they soften quicker, chop then add them to the pan. This allows them to wilt. Next add your stock. At this point I put the soup into a food mixer as we don’t have a hand blender, with the potato and blitz keeping a bit of texture. Add a vigorous twist of black pepper and a pinch of salt and simmer for 10 mins. You could add chilli which would have been good but I wanted the taste of the garden.

Serve with cream if your greedy like me, and a huge crusty bread. done grew it ate it!

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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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