Chichester Copywriter has been getting back in touch with nature! On 19th September Katy and her partner Pete spent a day foraging and feasting with Sunrise Bushcraft near the New Forest in Hampshire.
Armed with the knowledge that anything other than the Four Fs (fruit, fungi, flowers and foliage) were off limits, the feast and forage foray was a treat for the senses as Chichester Copywriter spent the morning walking around the woods spotting, picking sniffing and tasting a bounty of booty from the British hedgerows.
Thanks to the aptly named Joe Peartree –skilled chef and knowledgeable hunter/gatherer – Katy’s day was filled with fascinating facts and creative writing fodder. Here are some of Joe’s pearls of wisdom which made the trip even more interesting for our creative copywriter who takes much of her writing inspiration from nature:
Three tree truths
- There are only 3 trees native to the UK – Scots pine, silver birch and juniper
- The world’s biggest forest – consisting mostly of pines, spruces and larches – is Taiga and it stretches across 9 countries: Russia, Mongolia, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, United States and Canada.
- There are around 330 species of brambles in the UK – explaining why not all blackberries taste the same.
Foraging facts – did you know?
- Herb Bennet or wood avens, which is part of the rose family, tastes similar to cloves.
- Leaves from lime trees (linden) taste like lettuce, are ideal for making ropes for rigging and can be brewed to make a tea to aid psychosis – perhaps this would be a good tree to find on a deserted island!
- Herb-Robert, also known as red robin and dove’s foot, can help to keep the mosquitoes away.
- Beech leaves taste like apple when eaten in the spring and beech’s triangular nuts are reminiscent of walnuts; it is also the flavour behind Budweiser.
- While nettles are vicious little blighters, they are around 25% protein and contain a number of vitamins and minerals including: A, B, C, Zinc, Iron, and Phosphorous. Their roots can also be boiled and used as an antihistamine (to aid stings) as well as a yellow dye. Once hammered, the stems make excellent cordage and four pieces the size of a thumb have the strength to hold up a Range Rover. Also, the phrase “to grasp the nettle” means to be courageous.
- Sweet chestnuts taste best roasted over an open fire but they are also a healthy snack as they are low in fat and contain B vitamins.
- Wood sage is part of the mint family, has a taste of beer about it and tastes great with roast potatoes.
- Horse chestnut leaves can be scrunched up and used as a wash or mild antiseptic. The spiky pods can be crushed to make an organic lather typical of shampoo.
- Hairy bittercress, which has white flowers, is neither hairy nor bitter but has a lovely watercress/horseradish taste that is rather moreish!
- Silver birch has many uses: its bark is like a waterproof cardboard and is often used to build boats; its resin is heated and used as glue; it makes good firewood, burning well and for a long time; its trunk can be tapped for sap in early March to produce a natural energy drink; and it contains a chemical that is used to treat cancer.
- Wood sorrel has a delicious lemony flavour and is a great addition to a salad.
- Rhododendrons may look glorious in bloom but they contain poisonous nectar. The Victorians took advantage of this organic cyanide and used it in hanging bottles to trap and kill butterflies without damaging their sought after wings which were framed for display.
- Burdock belongs to the artichoke family and its roots can be peeled and roasted. The Japanese enjoy it with wasabi so Katy concludes that it would taste great with hairy bittercress. It may also interest you to know that the burdock’s burrs inspired the invention of Velcro.
- While comfrey is an excellent fertiliser for the garden its leaves can be used to make a bandage to encourage healing and its roots, which set like plaster, can be used to make a cast – hence its alias boneset.
- Rowan is part of the rose family and its berries make a delicious jelly (crab apples can be added for natural pectin). Also known as witchwood, folklore says that sticks of rowan were used to stir cream and offer protection from witches who might curdle it. As well as being used to create magical staffs, rowan is a popular choice for those crafting bows.
After an enlightening stroll through the undergrowth, the group settled around the campfire to sup on nettle tea while Joe cooked up a storm in a cauldron. Using blackberries picked by Katy, Joe made a delicious salad dressing which he poured over mixed leaves including lime leaves and wood sorrel. He also blanched nettle leaves, which Pete had gathered, and pounded them to create a delicious pesto for the pasta.
A fantastic foraged feast
NB: Katy has starred those dishes she particularly enjoyed…
Chamomile, crab apple and passionfruit iced tea*
Self-heal, rose water, lemon and honey love tonic
Elderberry, crab apple and strawberry compote*
Rosehip, raspberry and rhubarb compote
Pea, ham, wild watercress and sea beet soup*
Main courses –
French bean and nettle pesto pasta*
Pulled shoulder of pork, wild fennel and horseradish pottage
Sea beet gratin*
New potatoes, rock samphire and broad bean salad with smoked bacon and poached egg
Fire roasted chilli, lime and wild fennel sea bass stuffed with common orache*
Forager salad with blackberry dressing
Foraged summer berry pudding with rowan berry coulis*
You can find out more about Feast and Forage Taste the Seasons and the range of outdoor courses offered by Sunrise Bushcraft here. To find out more about Joe and his expertise visit his Facebook page.