October 5, 2012 at 10:59 am #4988
The idea for this topic was prompted by a remark by Unclepat on another thread, in which he disparaged the concept of chefs foraging for foraging’s sake, a post with which I wholeheartedly agree.
My first experience of foraging was with my uncles, Tom and Hughie in South Wales when I was about nine. We gathered laver (a for my aunts to make ‘bread’ (bara lawr) – the inverted commas are mine; in actual fact the ‘bread’ was actually a type of breakfast cake – laver and oatmeal mixed together, seasoned, fried and served with rashers.
Laver (Porphyra laciniata and green laver (Ulva latissima) is, or at least used to be, in frequent use in the coastal areas of South Wales, particularly around Swansea and in South Pembrokeshire. Laver is a smooth fine, slightly translucent seaweed, sometimes called sea-spinach, which clings to the rocks like sheets of silk. At a distance it looks like tar.
So, the question I wanted to ask is: what are the ingredients worth foraging and what are the ones best left in the field or on the seashore?
October 5, 2012 at 11:23 am #24237
I’ll start the bidding Ernie…Sea Buckthorn. Appearing everywhere it seems, in both savoury and sweet dishes. Maybe the Simon Rogans of this world can make somehing edible with it but whenever I’ve been served it, it has been bitter and medicinal in taste and has spoiled many a decent meal for me.
October 7, 2012 at 9:54 am #24238
I’ve heard meadowsweet touted as an alternative to vanilla.
It’s nothing like. In fact it doesn’t smell of anything very much.
Question: If I go into my garden and pick sage/thyme/rosemary/oregano/lemon balm/verbena/perpetual spinach/vine leaves etc etc, that’s ‘harvesting’, right? If I go down to the forgotten bit at the end and cull the sorrel that’s somehow insinuated itself at the base of the mimosa tree is that ‘foraging”?
October 27, 2012 at 11:12 am #24236
I’m with unclepat on this one, I’m watching Ireland and UK food movements from afar, with food articles, cookery programmes and reading menus online.
It seems alot of people are becoming accustomed to adding shit to a plate because they’ve picked it themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of people getting more into nature with growing, seasonal sourcing, picking, fishing etc but it has a time and a place.
As said, Sea buckthorn, I would struggle to see how to implement that in a worthy manner into any dish.
An awful lot of stuff appears as it reads well on a menu and is trendy, trendy food is often a load of shite.
I class foraging as picking or collecting from a public place, something that has grown wild.
Ive been picking ( I hate the word forage) more than ever since moving to Austria, but things I know I can use, and use well,
Mushrooms, Nuts, Berries, Nettles, Elder flowers, wild Garlic, Wild rocket etc..
The thoughts of picking stuff and adding it to a dish for the sake of it goes against everything I stand for in cooking, keep it simple, tasty, fresh and uncomplicated. And un-trendy.
Am I the only person with a sense of dread that maybe just maybe we maybe returning to some form of ‘nature’ nouvelle cuisine becoming popular ?
Nice to see the site come back to life a bit, it needed a bit of resuscitation
November 1, 2012 at 11:30 am #24233
The bara lawr of your childhood is still a staple in South Wales Ernie. My husband is from there so everytime we go over we go to Swansea Market to stock up. There are still a couple of families harvesting the seaweed and cooking it down to a dense green jellyish pulp. This is then rolled in oatmeal and fried as you described or just piled on toast as it is.
It is most definitely an acquired taste and one I have failed to acquire despite many approaches, I can just about tolerate it in an omlette but even then the slimy texture is a bit too much. A Japanese pal living here loves it.
November 5, 2012 at 12:46 pm #24234
Having been a bit of a hermit for the past few years it’s great to get a life back! Foraging is really great fun and getting away from the kitchen with Daisy boo (the dog) in the morning may make gathering wild food seem like an idyllic pass time. Also there are some great people in Galway who collect wild mushrooms in quantity, and they are bloody lovely. So yes foraging is a good thing but I don’t know of any kitchens in which it’s more than a small part of their food offering. But then, much of the main stream food writing ‘by and large’ can be boring and subject to all kinds of fads; but wild foods are incredibly interesting topics which can make for good copy.
November 5, 2012 at 2:33 pm #24235
mushrooms are the obvious thing you have to forage for and I do so whenever I notice a warm patch of weather after a wet patch. This year mostly just shaggy ink caps but I love them so happy enough. Also a few shaggy parasols. For a feature article in spring of 2011 I was writing on feeding a family of three on 25 euro for a week I had to forage a little in Bushy Park (to add interest as much as anything else). I picked nettles and jack by the hedge (garlic flavoured) to supplement our greens intake. Loved the nettle soup and I also mixed them through mash and also liked the taste of jack by the hedge in salads and as a flavour in a few things. At other times I have often picked sorrel which I resent buying (not that it is easy to find anyway).
My mother grew up in west waterford and we always visited around the october bank holiday and picked lots of sweet chestnuts which seem to grow much better around there. there is a fab tree in Lismore cathedral’s graveyard behind the church if you are in the area. Sadly the grey squirrells rob them all in Dublin but searching through the leaves in Bushy near the old house on the way to the woods or the trees in Marley can usually give you a couple of handfuls. Also in Bushy are six huge walnut trees and fresh walnuts this good are impossible to find in shops so you have to forage for them.
So I am a rather lazy forager – I do it if I think of it. However I went on a foraging walk with Mary Bullfin (http://wildfoodmary.wordpress.com/tag/mary-bulfin/) this autumn and she pointed out a number of things I really liked including ale hoof or ground ivy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glechoma_hederacea) and wild pea-shoots both of which you cannot buy and taste really good mixed into a salad. Meadowsweet is pretty good too and has the same ingredient as aspirin (Mary claims she uses it instead of pills all the time).
so while I can live without the things mentioned above I love getting things for free and there is huge satisfaction from a basket full of free sweet fresh walnuts to take one example. The herbs are less necessary but I still think the items mentioned above can add valid tasty flavours if used well and most are not available commercially.
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