Friday, 22 November 2013

The Forage (1)

The Forage
When you think about how shitty a lot of the food system chains are, it's almost nice to know its only horse that goes into the lasagne.
A few years back I was completely trusting of the systems that govern us, our food, our energy, banking etc..I believed that if things were THAT bad then surely someone would do something about it.....
After expenses scandals, energy companies taking the piss, the bailing out of banks who appear to continue a champagne lifestyle while the poorest continue to shiver, police corruption and press scandals - I ran out of trust - it took about 12 months or so for it to happen. I no longer believe that 'they' really give a shit - and although its a pretty cynical place to end up in, its kind of freeing.
I realise we are all inextricably linked to it, I know that - but I see the systems for what they are, and I will do my best to limit my reliance on them.
This post is about foraging - I promise, and whilst there are many reasons to forage (its free, fun, gets you out etc,,,) I believe its more than that - its a fuck you to the supermarkets, to the companies that flog crap to you to feed to your kids, and its a small, first step towards REGAINING CONTROL of the most important thing of all - the food we eat.
Foraging just got political,  Yeah that's right - get angry - get foraging!

Foraging is Sweeeeet:

  • Because its free
  • Because it helps us regain connection with our food AND our surroundings
  • It gives us a sense of control, freedom and peace
  • The food is really good for us
  • There's no shit in there and no one has tampered with it
  • it's a big 'No thanks' to the companies making us fat
  • It means we are eating seasonally
  • There are no chains, no food miles 

We had a day with Michael White out in Kent, looking at foraged foods. I was expecting to Find stuff that I would eat if I was showing off or if I was in a bit of a pickle, but my god I was surprised.  The food tasted lovely. it being autumn the focus was on mushrooms, berries and roots. We met Michael by his fields, sat in his shack while he explained the rules (don't over pick, don't eat anything you are unsure of etc...(basically don't be an idiot)) and then we went on a four mile circular walk. Lunch was a lovely venison stew and then we prepared, cooked and tasted the forage. The small group was cool - everyone was chilled out and it was really nice for Michelle and me to have a day in the countryside together without the kids and doing something new, trying and eating new things.
Its really important that people don't go out and start eating things which they are not really sure about - you can kill yourself, but if you can be hand held by someone that knows what they are talking about, that fear can be turned into freedom, and that's the best.

A selection of the foods we tried:

Nettles - the young leaves, steamed with a bit of oil - tasted like spinach, but apparently, more nutritious.  
Nettles are one of the most powerful iron sources in the vegetable kingdom.
Great for anaemia, for during menstruation (to top up departing iron stocks) and as a general blood tonic. Whenever you feel run down, or tired, think nettles!

Eating nettles or drinking the tea makes your skin clearer and healthier, good for eczema and other skin conditions.  Nettle tea can also be used as a tonic for garden plants
Chickweed - A bit more texture than the nettles - more of a pea flavour too.
Chickweed is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, selenium, and silicon. That sounds pretty good to me - and chickweed, like nettles grows EVERYWHERE - you don't need to be in the Kent countryside for this folks!

Rose hips - scooped out with a spoon ( the insides are fibrous and will cause a problem) and the hollowed out hips are then boiled up with a bit of sugar and strained through a muslin
Rose hips are particularly high in Vitamin C, one of the richest plant sources available.
A study of a rose hip preparation for treating rheumatoid arthritis concluded that there was a benefit, apparently due to both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects.
Rose hips are used to help prevent colds and flu.

Dandelion root coffee - this was dandelion root scrubbed clean, roasted to a burnt black, mashed up and put through a coffee percolator. And do you know what? It tasted like coffee. Good for liver - has a laxative effect and is currently in trials for its effects in cancer treatment. There is loads of info out there, you can even buy it online but its worth doing - maybe you'll start seeing those weeds differently

The day was great - we saw and tried loads more but I didn't want to bore you, also this is the most easily identifiable stuff. Maybe I'll put the rest in a new post, one concentrating on the mushrooms.
After the horse meat scandal - food became the latest scale to fall from my eyes. It always seems to boil down to money, and if there's a short cut to be made, it will, in all probability happen. This is obviously increasingly likely in a long, convoluted system that spans countries and continents. Add on to this the fact that we don't know how a lot of the food is produced, what chemicals are used, how animals are farmed, how workers are treated and how much fuel it takes to get it to you and you begin to question our systems. Foraging is never going to replace your supermarket shop - but it might help you think differently about things. Its pretty clear that a lot of this stuff is actually healthier than a lot of farmed super foods. Highly recommended - go forage!


  1. Mark, I tell you what I've never managed to grow, bloody Asparagus.

  2. I'll do a post for you mate - easier with crowns - seed is a faf. Are you in paddock wood now?

  3. Yes. About a mile west in Five Oak Green to be precise. Know the area? (All my Asparagus failures have been with crowns!)