Foraging, why the interest now?

Historically foraging from the hedgerow has been carried out in times of hardship such as, during the war, and wild plants have been seen as a poor substitute to their cultivated cousins.
But in the last few years there has been a radical shift in this perception. Pioneered by the likes of Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall wild food is very much in vogue and now virtually every top restaurant in the country and every episode of Masterchef and other TV cookery programs feature a wild ingredient.

Foraging for pig nuts in Oxfordshire

The top restaurants have the luxury of having “professional foragers” gathering and delivering their wild foods to the door, but for mere mortals the 200 plus plants growing wild in the UK which are classed as being edible can be a daunting prospect, especially when serving these to paying customers, to the extent where chefs won’t take the risk and are therefore missing out on some really exciting ingredients.
This fear is not without foundation.  There are some highly toxic plants that grow naturally in the UK and some of these are sufficiently similar to edible species to make foraging a risky business for the novice. It is essential to make a 100% positive I.D. for each and every plant that is to be consumed and the bewildering array of guidebooks can not only be confusing for the beginner but also limited in their ability to differentiate sufficiently between similar looking species.  Identification can often involve touch and smell in addition to visual clues and these differences may not be described in some books.
We strongly feel that there is no better way to start your foraging journey than by attending a well-run course by a reputable organisation.  Where the plants can be pointed out to you in the field, where the differences between edible and similar looking poisonous ones can be seen at close hand, where you have the opportunity to touch and smell the plant in the flesh and form your own mental associations especially as smells can be very subjective.
If the company runs courses at different times of the year, seeing the plants in their different stages of growth will help to cement the identification process.
Other safety considerations to consider when dealing with wild plants as food are people’s tolerances to plants so it is recommended that only small amounts of any new plant are consumed the first time you try it. You also need to be careful where you collect from, is there is the possibility of the area having been sprayed with anything or having been contaminated by chemicals, exhaust pollution etc.?
Driven by the restaurant industry and TV cookery programs, foraging wild food is seen as being not only in fashion but also very green, as there are fewer food miles involved. As a result there is an increasing interest in the subject and our foraging courses often book up months in advance.
Why not incorporate wild plants into your menus and join in the new craze!

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