Isn't it strange how people in this modern time see foraging as perhaps a some what eccentric past time. We can walk into a supermarket and put our hands on pretty much anything we desire. But a high percentage of the foods we buy have been farmed intensively and in my opinion when this is done they lack lustre and depth of flavour.
The consumer wants the perfect berry or mushroom etc and they want it now and they want it 12 months of the year. But things were not always that way.
We were born to be hunter gatherers and to live by the season and although most people think foraging is a little odd, to myself and many its feels like the most natural thing in the world to do.
As a child we would rise early to go mushroom picking. Carefully cutting the mushrooms and placing them in a basket. Year in year out, we had areas around the meadows and farm that we would visit to harvest out feast, returning home with our bounty and mum would cook them in the biggest frying pan ready for when dad came in from the fields for his breakfast.
From open cup to horse mushrooms, we collected them all, saving others not yet ready to harvest for another days picking. I have never tasted a shop bought mushroom that has the depth of flavour that the ones we gathered as children had.
Sadly crop spraying has put paid to so many things in this modern day, wild mushrooms being one of them, although I feel there may be some to find but not as plentiful as they were.
So foraging is a natural thing for us to do as humans but it's something that is sadly becoming forgotten. A lost skill.
It's so easy to pick up the phone and dial a takeaway and we all enjoy that experience, but there truly is no greater joy than eating freshly foraged foods and I guess for many of you, you will just have to take me on my word.
As children if we were taken to the sea side we would go winkle picking. Wandering for hours in the shallows ankle deep with a bucket in one hand collecting these snail like creatures. My brother and I were always competitive as to who could collect the most. Neither saying so, but just secretly hoping our hoard was greater than the other.
Taking them home we would soak and finally cook them, easing them from their shells and adding vinegar. Sitting on the back step consuming our foraged feast with great delight!
I remember gathering hazelnuts, cracking them open with my teeth and feasting on the lush kernels, filling my pockets with more to take home.
All of this was as natural as walking and talking to me. It was "normal life". I thought everyone did the same! I was surprised at the reactions of people and as I became a youth and I stopped foraging and moved towards modern living I became consumed at being the consumer.
Too busy, too selfish too... modern. Moving to live in a town and becoming dragged along in the current of modern life I began to forget. Then four years ago we moved back to the countryside, and while walking it all came flooding back. Watching the hedgerows changing, the blackberries plumping, wild garlic pushing through the earth it was like coming home. Uncovering and dusting off my natural instinct to gather by the season.
I would like to share with you season by season some of my favourite things to forage and how to prepare and eat them. I find the supermarket the most unnatural environment ( but we all have to eat) but foraging for food for me is as natural as breathing.