I do believe that the only way one can be an authentic voice in any field is to fully explore all the avenues that relate to a particular subject in order to fully understand the processes involved because there is no better experience than hands-on experience. To this effect, I decided it was high time I ventured into the wilderness and went on my very first forage trip with ‘Wild Food Larder’ Chef, writer and forage expert, Andrew Sartain.Now anyone who knows me knows I have never been much of an outdoorsy type but as a I get older, I seem to be embracing outdoor pursuit and so I donned my wellies and we headed to the country to meet Andrew. Honoured to have been the very first group of the year that Andrew took foraging, I arranged a Mother’s day trip for my Mum, myself and several other food-loving friends Anne (@AnneGiacoman), Donald (@Donalde), Alan (@Stewed) and Nicola (@NicMonks) and headed to a secret location just past Bristol bright and early at 10am (which, for me, is VERY bright and early on a Sunday). We met on the private estate for a lovely breakfast of Andrew’s own cured bacon and homemade sausages with local honey, homemade lemon cake and so coffee to warm us up for the day ahead.Immediately we were shown a whole host of exciting edible leaves including Valerian (known for its calming powers), Vetch (a sort of pea shoot-flavoured leaf) as well as nettles, dandelions, garlic mustard and many more leaves that I couldn’t even begin to describe the incredible flavours of. We literally ate everything from leaves to seeds and roots, all expertly explained to us in detail by Andrew. Who knew that so much of what surrounds us is totally edible; the mind boggles, it really does.For the next part of our foray, we headed to the beach by the Bristol Channel where the smell of fennel shoots drew us in and we tasted seeds and flowers of the Alexander plant, grazed on rock samphire and picked a huge quantity of sea beet leaves (kind of like a hardy sea spinach) as well as chives and an abundance of other treats before heading back to base camp, laden with an enormous basked packed full of herbs, leaves and flowers.Arriving back at the camp, a stunning lunch spread awaited us with delicate (and local) Portmerion crockery, endless jars of pickles, dips, pestos, sauces and spreads with giant loaves of bread, platters of cheese and fresh ‘foraged’ salad leaves. The griddle pan was smoking up a treat as Andrew placed his home made venison burgers and mutton chorizo burgers on the grill and I pitched in helping to finish off the bright green wild garlic risotto to accompany it all. There is nothing like of an enormous banquet of delectable treats to satisfy the empty bellies of a hungry group of foragers! I honestly didn’t think the meal would be anything remotely as spectacular as the one lovingly prepared for us by Andrew on the day.
After lunch, we divvied up all our foraged goodies before going for one last stint in the woods for my absolute favourite leaf of all… Wild garlic. The whole area was teeming with it as far as the eye could see; in fact as soon as we arrived in the morning and got out of the car, the overwhelming pungent scent of these innocent looking wild garlic leaves shot straight up our nostrils. Armed with a mini machete, I was shown have to effectively pick the leaves and within minutes had at least a kilo of the stuff to take back home with me ready to replicate Andrew’s recipe for wild garlic and walnut pesto; perfect for storing for up to a year!What a wonderful fun and laughter filled day and a very unusual Mother’s day gift to my lovely Mother (who is ever tolerant of my bizarre food-driven missions) but aside from that, I cannot emphasise enough, just how much you learn from spending a day with someone who has over 20 years of experience on the subject and who shares literally every little pearl of wisdom and knowledge with you. Worth every penny, I would say and I would highly recommend Andrew’s ‘Wild Food Larder’ forage trips because for less than the cost of a mediocre meal in a sub-standard restaurant, you will get a rewarding experience that is not only fun but also educational and if that isn’t enough for you, then the meal at the end alone, is more than worth the £40 per head fee that Andrew charges. Foraging is becoming a bit trendy so lots of people are doing it but both myself and the group I was with, were all suitably blown away by how much we experience, learned and ate on the day and we are now busy planning our next trip foraging in October for mushrooms! Much closer to home this time, in Berkshire / Sussex… as well as a day of fishing on board a Catamaran where we hope to catch lots of lovely sea bass to take home with us.
If you would like to join us for our next forage or fishing trip hosted by Andrew Sartain, please send me an email through my blog for more information.
Or visit Andrew Sartain’s website: http://www.thewildfoodlarder.co.uk/
Or follow him on Twitter: @Sarty1
Forage trips cost £40 per person for a 3 hour foray followed by a magnificent lunch and all the goodies you can carry to take home. Money well spent, if you ask me and even as I type, I can overhear my mother talking on the phone to her friends about all the different wild food we founnd and how cool it was... so it's definitely something everyone should experience.