Earlier this May I ventured to Arnos Vale to go on a ‘Foraging Walk’ with Martin from Go Foraging! I absolutely loved it.
Now, blackberry picking or the odd rummage for wild-garlic is about as adventurous as I normally get when it comes to foraging. But, I’ve long had this romantic idea that involves me wandering into the forest with a wicker basket collecting berries. Perhaps it’s got something to do with my inner goddess striving to strike a balance between Gaia and Snow White. From a practical point of view, I also think that knowing what you can find-and-eat would be quite handy in a Zombie apocalypse scenario.
I was really keen to go on this course to learn how I might be able to survive in the wild. Plus, it was a good opportunity to go for a morning stroll in the beautiful Arnos Vale.
When I met Martin, I was pleased to see that others too had come prepared with notepads and cameras. Clearly, we were all pretty excited to get things started! And so, Martin began the walk by explaining a little about himself and his experience with foraging. His passion for the subject was clear from how fondly he spoke of past experiences. The way he recounted of sights, smells, and seasons made me feel like I had been a part of it!
We then had a VERY thorough health and safety brief, in which Martin stressed the importance of NEVER eating anything you aren’t sure of, and doing your research.
At first, I was a little disappointed knowing that I wouldn’t be wandering around enthusiastically munching on whatever foliage was pointed out to me. However, as the morning progressed, I came to appreciate why he laboured the importance of safety. With the risk of poisoning, a forager needs to take serious responsibility for their wellbeing.
Throughout the walk, Martin identified many things that we could eat – but most importantly, he gave us the toolkit for identifying and checking plants. Broadening our skills and ability to recognise wild food, I felt I had come home a competent forager.
As we wandered, some of the foods we learned about were:
Bush Vetch- A type of wild pea with a beautiful purple flower commonly found in Arnos Vale.
Ribwort Plantain – You know that stalky plant you used to make ‘pop guns’ out of when you were a kid? Well, it’s actually food! Use the mushroomy tasting heads to make pesto and the leaves to make salads.
Nettles – Pick the tender shoots when they are young and use them to make soups, stews, risottos and teas. Packed with vitamin A and C, it’s a handy antihistamine.
Wild Garlic – Use the leaves to make pesto or stir into risotto. Use the pretty flowers to jazz up a salad but make sure to not catch any of the poisonous heart-shaped ‘lords and ladies’ when plucking out. They commonly grow amongst wild garlic.
Hogweed – The big leaves are one of the tastiest wild foods! Delicious when lightly fried in coconut oil, be careful of the raw sap on the skin… it reacts nastily with sunlight.
Martin is an excellent teacher! Ever since his class, I’ve been able to identify many of the above when going on walks and not just in the countryside! I have found some of this stuff springing up in parks, on roadsides and on pavements. We truly are surrounded by loads of stuff we can eat.