Natures Larder

9 09 2012

Natures larder, you know..that big expanse of green stuff outside. It’s packed with wonderful fruits, berries and delights just waiting to be snaffled. From appealing roadside apples to bulging blackberries, delightful damsons even through to exciting elder there is a vast and virtually untapped nutritional resource out there. I have been a ‘forager’ in earnest for around two years now. It’s something that I always aspired to do, feeling enthused after watching Ray Mears munch his way through Britain’s woodland. He obviously ate a large amount of it.

I have tried to pass on my limited skills onto my little one. She LOVES to go foraging, as she knows that she can munch on some tasty berries as we traipse our way around. There is also the added bonus of splashing in muddy puddles for her ! It probably sounds a little odd, but I excel in being different and I refuse to be ‘normal’. Normal to me is run of the mill, tedium personified. I digress as usual. I have taught her how to live from the land, what is good, what is bad and what will kill you. I always say to her that you need to know this “In case the shops aren’t open any more“. Sounding like a true nut job now, our consumerist lifestyle is very fragile. It wouldn’t take much for it to fall apart. So I teach her to forage, and how to hunt.

As Autumn (Fall) approaches, the tree branches are laden with nature’s bounty. Late summer really presents a bonus of foragable booty. This weekend I have picked around 5KG of damsons, and 3KG of Rowan Berries plus a handful of Hazelnuts. The latter of the three were picked from the side of an old forgotten road. It’s quite eerie to walk along a path, completely overgrown by nettles, blackberry and hazel and see a white line in the middle of the path. How quickly nature takes back from us. In fact as we were taking hazelnuts, there was a grey squirrel angrily crashing around in the branches above us. Neve was telling the squirrel to ‘Shush’…so cute.

From this weekend’s haul, I have started to make some Damson wine and Rowan Berry wine.Plump purple Damson berries are an old favourite for people to forage, but people tend to shy away from Rowan. Dare I say it’s a bit of a secret. Most people have the impression that that large bunches of waxy red berries are poisonous. For sure if you bit into a berry, you would spit it out instantly. They taste like crap, but are super packed with vitamin C. However you can make an amazing jelly from them, which accompanies meat wonderfully. Plus I made an amazing Rowan wine, and am currently drinking a glass now. I would say that it’s the best wine that I have made so far. The taste is like a medium white, but the colour is like whiskey !

Go out into the parks and hedgerows. Go and sample what is waiting. However please use caution, as there are things out there that will either taste nasty or kill you ! Do a Google search for hedgerow foraging, and it will give you berry images and leaves to look for.

Some starter sites:

Andy Hamilton – One of the seminal founders of the ‘Self Sufficientish’ movement

Robin Harford – Robin provides a wonderfully useful reference site, with great recipes

Adam – Adam produces some unusual wine recipes, including the amazing Rowan Berry Wine

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PS – Do not attempt this if you are squeamish about insects, or don’t like being stung by nettles !

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The world on a plate…

2 11 2010

One of the things that has struck me on more than one occasion is the massive variation in what we eat around the world. For me a major part of the travel experience is with the local food. Perhaps this is why I “am packing” ? I don’t mean weapons either !

Seriously though, you can kind of tell the background of local types by their dishes. Where I come from (Liverpool), the speciality is a dish called “Scouse”. It’s actually where “Scousers” get their name from. Scouse is a very plain yet hearty dish. Traditionally it’s made with leftover meats, vegetables and a metric tonne of potatoes. It’s a poor man’s dish, originally adapted from a Norwegian recipe “Lobscouse”. Similar “one-pot” meals are prevalent in other areas where times have been hard.

The biggest national variation in foods in my opinion is at breakfast times. Us Brit’s are famous for a “Full English”. A Full English consists of a coronary inducing amount of bacon, sausages, eggs and another Brit speciality “Black Pudding”. I’ll explain ‘ black pud’ a different time. Nowadays most Brit’s breakfast fare is the humble if not boring cereal.

Then we move onto our cousins across the pond. Equally as fatty, the Americans present such delights as pancakes with buttermilk, streaky bacon, hash browns and all manner of muffins. A serious calorie overload (but v tasty) !

The North Europeans are fairly similar. Sliced meats, cold cheeses, and various fishy thingies. Southern Europeans have sliced spiced meats such as salami and cheeses. I experienced curry for breakfast in the Maldives, which certainly set you up for the day !

Now, onto the Asian’s…and obviously with my recent travels it’s really got me thinking about all things breakfasty. In Asia, anything goes for breakfast. Soup, dim sum, duck, cakes…whatever. Does it taste good ? Well let’s have it for breakfast !

What’s my point I hear you mutter ? Firstly, there should be a serious study of the worlds breakfast habits. We are all told how breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet due to our “country conditioning” we tend to opt for the “norm”. Is this one of the reasons that Asian people tend to be more happy and content than us Westerners ?

My other point, and this is a bit of a rant…

It drives me insane when someone goes to the trouble of travelling abroad, and yet won’t try the local food. How are they possibly experiencing the local culture (ignoring any bacterial references) ? They should embrace the culture and the culinary delights that are on offer. I have to point out that I did refuse raw chicken once in Japan, I did not want to experience that type of culture !

Throw caution to the wind, and try new foods.

Open your mouth, fill it (now then) and open your mind.

Soap box has been put away now. Is it time for my Xanax already Doctor…








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