Last week I went on a blogging event that was very different to any I’d been on before. Forest Holidays invited a group of bloggers for two days of food and foraging in the Forest of Dean. I love the idea of using wild foods in cookery, but I’ve never been too sure about how to go about it. I’ve tried the obvious things cooking with blackberries, apples and so on. One year I branched out and tried making a Haw Ketchup from hawthorn berries. It was a lot of hard work and I only ended up with one bottle of sauce for my efforts, so I felt I was i some need of some expert help.
We went on a foraging walk around the Forest Holidays site. What was really impressive was the range of plants available and the richness of the bio-diversity of the area. We learnt about leaves that we can eat like plantain (bitter to start with, but surprisingly mushroomy after a while) and sorrel. We found sweet chestnuts in some abundance. Further round the walk we discovered mushrooms and rosehips (used during the war years to keep up our vitamin C levels).
Later we found quite a large patch of Himalayan Balsam which is quite an invasive plant. It’s not native to this country and it has spread due to the fact that the seed pods explode when ripe to scatter the seed. We gathered some of the seeds and flowers to use in the cocktails we were planning to make later.
Our last task of the foraging walk was to gather some pine needles and light a fire, so that we could make pine needle tea. This is really easy as you just need to infuse the needles in boiling water. Apparently it has a lot of health benefits, but it’s also quite pleasant to drink (or at least it would have been if I’d had a way of straining out the pine needles).