Category: Public courses

Booze Walk – 13/05/17

On Saturday we were delighted to host our first Booze Walk. This was a walk to introduce people to some of the common plants that grow at our feet and the amazing concoctions that can be made with them. Yes, there was plenty of sampling and top tips. The walk was lead by Andy Hamilton who is one of THE experts on wild booze. He is the author of the best-selling Booze for Free and Brewing Britain: The Quest for the Perfect Pint, writes for The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph amongst others and frequently appears on TV and Radio talking about foraging and booze.

Drink 1 - Bertie’s Fairy Haw (Haw Syrup, Cider Vinegar, Gin, Pastis)
Drink 1 – Bertie’s Fairy Haw (Hawthorn Blossom Syrup, Cider Vinegar, Gin, Pastis)

 

drink_2_SotonCraftBeer_Vermouth
Drink 2 – Wild Rose Vermouth (photo by @sotoncraftbeer)

 

Drink 3 - Treegroni - Vegroni with Cedar Vodka (Cedar and Pine buds) instead of Campari
Drink 3 – Treegroni – Vegroni with Cedar Vodka (Cedar and Pine buds) instead of Campari

 

Drink 4 - Chocolate Blossom - Crème de Cacao, Elderflower and Lime flowers
Drink 4 – Chocolate Blossom – Crème de Cacao, Elderflower and Lime flowers

 

Drink 5 - Épine (Blackthorn leaves in a red wine with Brandy)
Drink 5 – Épine (Blackthorn leaves in a red wine with Brandy)

After the final, “Secret Drink” (I’d have to kill you), a selection of home-made drinks that the guests had brought with them appeared and were passed round for critique including from the expert. These included a Cider, Sloe Gin and a selection of vodkas (Rhubarb and Ginger, Fennel and Damson, Quince and some of my own Japanese Knotweed)!

Bring a bottle (or two)  (photo by @sotoncraftbeer)
Bring a bottle (or two) (photo by @sotoncraftbeer)

Thanks to all that attended for being a great group and to Andy for his enthusiasm, humour, knowledge and amazing concoctions.

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Seashore Foraging Walk 29/04/17

Thanks to all the lovely folk that joined us on our seashore foraging walk on the spectacular Jurassic Coast in Dorset last Saturday. The sun shone and we found a good range of seashore plants, seaweed and had good luck on the crustacean front. We are back again on 27th May (fully booked), for Coastal Plants on 15th July and seashore again on 23rd September. Thanks to those that sent in some of their photos.

The fiery Black Mustard - horseradish meets wasabi!
The fiery Black Mustard – horseradish meets wasabi!

 

Sea Beet - my favourite wide vegetable. Makes great soup amongst other things.
Sea Beet – my favourite wide vegetable. Makes great soup amongst other things.

 

Seaweed selection - some of the 10 edible species we found.
Seaweed selection – some of the 10 edible species we found.

 

Definitely something in this one
Definitely something in this pot

 

I'm staying here!
I’m staying here!
Lrts get another pair of hands
Lets get another pair of hands

 

Edible (Brown) Crab. Undersize (just) so back it went.
Edible (Brown) Crab. Undersize (just) so back it went.

 

Flounder (slightly surprised no other temporary residents of the pot hadn't eaten it!)
Flounder (slightly surprised no other temporary residents of the pot hadn’t eaten it!)

 

Feisty Velvet Swimming Crab grabs my finger.
Feisty Velvet Swimming Crab grabs my finger.

 

So glad I had thick gloves on!
So glad I had thick gloves on!

 

There's something interesting in this one.
There’s something interesting in this one.
A beautiful, but undersize Lobster, so back it went.
A beautiful, but undersize Lobster, so back it went.
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New Forest Fungi – “no-picking” code

The New Forest in Hampshire is a wonderful place for fungi with over 2700 species found, both the rare and very good numbers of the common species. It has been a popular destination for those who like to study and / or pick edible fungi for many years, but the growth of interest in foraging has been perceived by some to be detrimental to the Forest.

Learning to identify fungi on a fungus foray in The New Forest
Learning to identify fungi on a fungus foray in The New Forest

Foraging instructors have taught responsible, sustainable practice. I emphasised the Wild Mushroom Pickers’ Code of Conduct (British Mycological Society) and, the now defunct, Fungi Collectors Code for the New Forest.

There has been a bit of rumbling over the years coming to a head with statements in July 2015 by Sarah Cadbury of The Hampshire Fungus Recording Group to The New Forest Verderers – (Daily Mail, Guardian). One of the “accused”, John Wright responded to The Verderers (copy here).

Over the last year those that teach or forage professionally foragers formed The Association of Foragers and representatives have met with New Forest National Park Authority, Forestry Commission and Natural England. Members also attended “Future of Foraging” workshops around the country with Natural England under “The Foraging Partnership” banner. These workshops all seemed pretty positive with foraging seen as a way of getting people to engage with nature, but it needed to be done in a responsible manner.

old no pick sing for some inclosures
OLD sign. A limited number of inclosures have had been “no picking” for some years. One assumes that they have been used for comparative academic studies, but we don’t know.

Last week, those with permits to lead educational forays in The New Forest received a letter from The Forestry Commission. With immediate effect they have introduced a “no-picking” code for the New Forest SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). This covers most of The New Forest – open forest, heathland, timber inclosures etc. The related web page and Q&A go into more detail of their justification.

“Due to the growing concern from conservationists and very real fears from members of the community in the New Forest about the wide-scale harvesting of fungi, Forestry Commission feels it necessary to adopt a precautionary approach and can no longer support fungi picking on any scale on the New Forest Crown Lands (Site of Special Scientific Interest).”

Foragers enjoy looking at fungi too, such as these magnificent Fly Agaric.
Foragers enjoy looking at fungi too, such as these magnificent Fly Agaric.

They continue to clamp down on any illegal commercial mushroom picking and I support this action, though dispute how much actually happens.

The Forestry Commission released the story to the media (press release) earlier this week with it appearing in a number of daily and local newspapers, most seem to have just repeated the message. Telegraph, Mail, Times (subscription required to read all), Southern Daily Echo (Southampton / Bournemouth etc..

Today, The Association of Foragers have responded to The Forestry Commission and sent a press release to the media. The press release is reproduced below:

New Forest Fungi Picking Ban “unscientific” say fungi experts

New Forest, Hampshire, September 1st 2016

Leading foraging educators claim New Forest fungi picking ban is will undermine future fungi growth


A campaign by the Forestry Commission in England to ban the picking of all fungi in the New Forest has been heavily criticised by fungi experts and foraging educators.

The Association of Foragers, which represents the collective knowledge and experience of nearly one hundred writers, teachers and researchers, say the ban has no grounding in scientific evidence, and is more likely to undermine fungi populations in the long term. “There are at least 2,700 species of fungi in the New Forest. Only a dozen are routinely collected as food - none of which are rare”, said John Wright, author of the bestselling River Cottage Mushroom Guide, and member of The Association of Foragers. “More fungi are kicked over and trampled by the uneducated than are picked for the pot. Foraging provides an important point of human connection with these otherwise mysterious organisms”, said Mr Wright.

Mark Williams, a member of The Association of Foragers who has taught about fungi in Scotland for 25 years, said: “The Forestry Commission has presented no scientific evidence to show why this ban is necessary. That’s because there simply isn’t any”.

“A 25 year study of the effects of picking mushrooms revealed no correlation whatsoever between picking and future growth, in the same way as picking a bramble does not impact the parent plant - in the case of mushrooms an invisible underground network called mycelium. The picking and movement of mushrooms is actually more likely to help spread fungi spores and expand populations”, said Mr Williams.

The Forestry Commission also cites “fungi-dependent invertebrates” as reason for the ban. Research herbalist Monica Wilde of The AoF says: “People don’t pick the mushrooms that are appealing to maggots! The most widely eaten species - chanterelles and hedgehog mushrooms - are almost entirely resistant to insects.”

The FC also cites anecdotal evidence of “teams of commercial fungi pickers”. “This is a mantra that has been so often repeated, mostly by the tabloid press, that it has entered the public consciousness”, says Mr Williams. “With collectively 1000’s of days spent teaching and recording in the New Forest, not one member of the AoF has ever seen any evidence of this - not even a photograph. 99% of mushrooms rot where they grow.”

The AoF is calling for the FC to rethink the ban. “It is unscientific, unenforceable, and will serve only to further disconnect people from the world of fungi. We urge the FC to use the collective knowledge of the AoF to help formulate evidence-based policy to support future populations of fungi”.

The foraging forums / social media have been buzzing, among the comments that caught my eye:

  • The New Forest has at least 2,700 species of fungi. Only a dozen are routinely collected for food.
  • Absurdly about 50% of the New Forest SSSI woodland is spruce and pine plantation. Yet mushroom picking still not allowed.
  • I now won’t be able to take my 5-year-old daughter out picking within the New Forest. She’s been out with me since she was 1-year-old and already has a basket and some favourite spots.

There is no evidence that picking damages the crop (long-term scientific studies elsewhere have shown this); its a sustainable harvest and European experience proves it. Foraging is healthy, harmless fun and should be encouraged, not banned.

Foraging is an excellent way of getting people to spend quality time in the outdoors getting exercise and engaging with nature - no apps, screens etc.
Foraging is an excellent way of getting people to spend quality time in the outdoors getting exercise and engaging with nature – no apps, screens etc.
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Seaweed foraging course group

Seaweed and Eat It! 5th June 2016

We were really lucky to have the sun and glorious blue skies without even a breath of wind for our seaweed foraging course “Seaweed and Eat It!” on the spectacular Dorset coast on Sunday. The first part of the day was spent on the shore taking advantage of the really low tide to find a good range of edible species. As well as learning about each and how to use it in the kitchen we talked about other issues such as sustainable harvesting.

A sea garden - so many colours, shapes and textures (and tastes!)
A sea garden – so many colours, shapes and textures (and tastes!)

 

Gathering Sea Grass / Gutweed
Gathering Sea Grass / Gutweed

At our indoor venue we split into groups with each preparing part of lunch:

 

The results of the morning seaweed forage
The results of the morning seaweed forage – left to right – back row Kelp, Sea Beet. Middle row – Sea Spaghetti, Sea Lettuce, Gutweed. Front row – Pepper Dulse, Spiral Wrack, Laver

 

Wild Miso Soup
Miso soup made from Dashi stock with Kelp. Wild ingredients – Ceps, Pepper Dulse, Sea Beet, Wild Garlic & Sea Lettuce

 

Sea (and "land"!) Spaghetti in tomato sauce (includes Spiral Wrack). Served with a mixed, dried seaweed condiment.
Sea (and “land”!) Spaghetti in tomato sauce (includes Spiral Wrack). Served with a mixed, dried seaweed condiment.

The Sea Spaghetti was declared “a revelation”.

Elderflower Panna Cotta - made with Carrageen seaweed.
Elderflower Panna Cotta – made with Carrageen seaweed. Fresh Elderflowers infused in the milk – AMAZING flavour.

Everyone had a great time, with lots of very positive feedback – words like lovely, delicious, fascinating, recommend, very enjoyable, excellent, great, informative and confident.

Thanks to those that joined us for making it a memorable day.

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Razor Clams

Seashore foraging

Thanks very much to the good people that joined us on our Seashore foraging walk on Saturday on the Dorset coast. They had a great time as we found:

  • A range of plants including delicious greens, expensive invaders and seriously DEADLY species.
  • A good number of types of edible seaweed.
  • Plenty of shellfish – both molluscs and crustaceans.

For most the highlights were the razor clams and the anticipation of what was in the pot – a remarkable 4 Shore crabs and 4 Spider crabs! Birthday-boy Mike got to take the razor clams home, and I had the Brown Shrimps and the biggest Spider Crab. Guess what I had for lunch today!

 

Razor clam
The salt is in the hole, water has bubbled up, the Razor clam starts to emerge, wait for it…

 

Razor Clams
Wait for it… you want a inch showing, then grab it between thumb and forefinger across the edges of the shell and pull…

 

Razor Clams
Cheer quietly or squeal with delight!!

 

Catching Razor Clams 1
More Razor Clams success.

 

Another Razor Clam
And another. I have to confiscate the salt after a while!

 

Cooked Razor Clams
Dinner for two
Glamorous assistant with the Shrimp net.
Glamorous assistant with the Shrimp net.

 

Spider Crab
Spider Crab

 

Cooked Spider Crab
Cooked Spider Crab

On the way home I picked some St George’s mushrooms which dried in the sun yesterday as did some Gutweed which the people on the course kindly gathered.

Drying St George's mushrooms
Drying St George’s mushrooms
Drying Gutweed (in the green house - a bit windy for outside!
Drying Gutweed (in the green house – a bit windy for outside!)

Yesterday, I hit the coast again and picked the below plus some Wild Rocket, Dulse and Carrageen.

Seashore basket - Alexanders, Fennel, Three-Cornered Leek, Sea Beet, Sea Purslane and Fairy Ring Champignon.
Seashore basket – Alexanders, Fennel, Three-Cornered Leek, Sea Beet, Sea Purslane and Fairy Ring Champignon.

Thanks to some of the course attendees for supplying photos.

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Spring Greens – 23rd April 2016

Thanks to the folk that came on our Spring Greens foraging course in Wiltshire over the weekend. The session included:

  • A countryside foraging walk along hedgerows, through fields and woods.
  • Cooking and eating a three course wild food-based lunch.
bluebell wood.jpg
Beautiful Bluebell Wood

 

Sampling nettle beer on a spring greens foraging course
Sampling nettle beer

 

Wild Garlic leaves and buds gathered on a spring greens foraging course
Wild Garlic leaves and buds gathered

 

Nettle Soup on a spring greens foraging course
Nettle Soup

 

Foraged wild salad - 22 wild ingredients! spring greens foraging course
Foraged wild salad – 22 wild ingredients!

 

Salad and "wild" frittata - spring greens foraging course
Salad and “wild” frittata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer Foraging Video

This video shows some of the things the group on this year’s summer foraging course got up to. It includes underwater footage from the crabbing session and an Eel coming to the drop net. The Eel got put back as they are a protected species.

This course runs every summer (July) in West Dorset – it includes crabbing and plants of seashore, hedgerow and river. We gather ingredients for a three course wild-food based meal.

Many thanks to Ashley Thompson (@redchillisauce) for the video.

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Summer Foraging – 4th July 2015

Thanks to the folk that came on our summer foraging course over the weekend. The session included:

  • Seashore plants
  • Crabbing
  • A countryside foraging walk along hedgerows, through fields and beside (and in) a river.
  • Cooking and eating a three course wild food-based lunch

In the harbour we used drop nets to try and catch Shore Crabs. They were however a bit thin on the ground. It was a real surprise when one of the drop nets was hauled up to find this magnificent Eel. They are great eating and I remember catching one while fishing as a child and taking it home to eat. Today they are however critically endangered  and it was put back. I am looking forward to seeing the video footage on Ashley’s Kitchen.

Eel in a drop net
Eel in a drop net – not a crab! Plus video camera!

 

Meadowsweet - an edible summer plant. The flowers and leaves have many uses.
Meadowsweet – an edible summer plant. The flowers and leaves have many uses.

 

Gathering Fat Hen for our wild food lunch.
Gathering Fat Hen for our wild food lunch.

 

Eating our three course wild food-based lunch.
Eating our three course wild food-based lunch.

 

Sea Beet Soup
Sea Beet Soup (for the vegetarians)

 

Crab bisque
Crab bisque (for the carnivores)

 

Fat Hen Pesto bake, Sea Beet and new potatoes.
Fat Hen Pesto bake, Sea Beet and new potatoes.

 

Elderflower & Gooseberry Fool (garnished with raspberries, Wild Strawberries and Water Mint)
Elderflower & Gooseberry Fool (garnished with raspberries, Wild Strawberries and Water Mint)
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Seaweed Foraging Walk – 17th May 2015

Thanks to the folk that came on our Seaweed foraging walk over the weekend. The sun shone and the sea was calm and they had a great time. The session included:

  • identifying about a dozen edible species
  • learning about the law and how to harvest seaweed sustainably
  • gathering some to take home
  • learning what can be done with seaweeds in the kitchen
  • how to preserve them
An abundance of seaweed
An abundance of seaweed

 

Gathering seaweed
Gathering seaweed

 

Species of edible seaweed
Species of edible seaweed

 

Sugar Kelp - also known as Sea Belt, Poor Man's Weatherglass or Kombu Royale
Sugar Kelp – also known as Sea Belt, Poor Man’s Weatherglass or Kombu Royale

The walk ended with trying a selection of dishes with seaweed in:

  • Sugar kelp crisps
  • Miso Soup
  • Dulse Cheese Scones
  • Elderflower Pannacotta
Sugar Kelp Crisps
Sugar Kelp Crisps

 

Dulse Cheese Scones
Dulse Cheese Scones
The dulse cheese scones were particularly good (if I might say so myself). The recipe is taken from the fantastic Irish Seaweed Kitchen Cookbook by Prannie Rhatigan and can be found on her web site at http://irishseaweedkitchen.ie/seaweed-recipes/duileasc-dulse-cheese-scones/

 

Among the feedback on the seaweed walk received from attendees:
Thanks James for the seaweed foraging experience today, enjoyed every minute, great place on a sunny day with a great group of people, some serious seaweed drying going down tomorrow, in fact bit of a seaweed fest tomorrow, going for the sea lettuce, pepper dulse with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for a decadent brekkie, crispy seaweed for lunch some seaweed crisps to snack on in between and you must give me that miso soup recipe we tried today, thanks again!

Thank you for a very informative and fun morning last Sunday.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and the food you gave us was delicious and inspiring.
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