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.
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)!
Thanks to all that attended for being a great group and to Andy for his enthusiasm, humour, knowledge and amazing concoctions.
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 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.
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.
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).”
They continue to clamp down on any illegal commercial mushroom picking and I support this action, though dispute how much actually happens.
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.
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.
At our indoor venue we split into groups with each preparing part of lunch:
The Sea Spaghetti was declared “a revelation”.
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.
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!
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.
Yesterday, I hit the coast again and picked the below plus some Wild Rocket, Dulse and Carrageen.
Thanks to some of the course attendees for supplying photos.
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.
Thanks to the folk that came on our summer foraging course over the weekend. The session included:
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.
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.