Foraging. You might have noticed that this pastime, which some of us see as a way of life, has been gradually growing in popularity over the last few years until we’ve come to the point that the lovely people at Creative Impact kindly ask me to talk about it.
Adele Nozedar is an author, a food writer and a passionate forager. Her books include Foraging with Kids, The Hedgerow Handbook, and The Garden Forager. A keen forager, Adele has led walks in most parts of the UK as well as in Spain, Italy, Greece and India.
What is foraging?
Firstly, the technical bit. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, foraging means ‘to search widely for food or provisions’ or ‘to search a place such as to obtain food. Further, a ‘forager’ is ‘a person or animal that searches widely for food or provisions.
In ‘The Tree Forager’, I recall the tiny crab apples that fell from the trees that lined the grass verge across the path from home. Of course, I ate them. They were toe-curlingly bitter, these tiny dolls’ house apples. But I’d found them all by myself. They were mine. I had a relationship with them and an affection that has remained just as strong. Was this the first wild food that I found and ate? I think it must have been. But I was equally happy, as most kids are, digging in the mud in the periphery of the small veg patch at the end of the garden, its prosaic utilitarianism masked off from the prettier and more decorative flowers. Was that foraging too? There’s innate curiosity in both. What I do know is that different foragers have different approaches. Some choose to include animals and birds in the equation. Some specialise in fungi. Others, like me, are continually amazed by plants.
The foragers that I admire are many and varied. I’d love to have met Euell Gibbons, whose book ‘Stalking the Wild Asparagus’ is a masterpiece. He’s no longer with us. I’d also love to spend time with the legendary Steve Brill. And in the UK, Robin Harford’s colossal knowledge and gentle approach are inspiring.
Seeing the bigger picture
The people that come to me are keen on learning to identify and use wild plants, and they learn a lot. However, in this process, something else happens, which is much more important. We get to look at the world differently. Foraging can give all your senses a sharp kick up the backside, reminding you that there are colours and scents, and tastes and textures and sounds in the natural world that demand we pay attention! For me, foraging is a frame for a much bigger picture, the essential part of which is that we are a part of nature; we are always ‘in nature, and there’s no separation. If we can truly grab hold of this fact, I believe that everything will change for the better. As long as we delude ourselves that we are separate from our environment, then we’re pretty doomed. Foraging teaches us to recognise where we are.
My favourite trees
‘The Tree Forager’ describes 40 trees and their uses, medicinal capabilities, edibility and more. My favourites include, in no particular order: Elder: I love this for stories, elderflower cordial and for the outrageously high anthocyanin content of the berries, which have kept generations of us healthy. Medlar is a favourite for its strangely medieval vibe and unusual fruits, at their most tasty when left to rot, which makes natural kimchi. The money puzzle: it’s in great danger from illegal logging practices and needs all the help it can get. I love Yew for its stories and its sheer magic, a tree that is toxic and yet gives us a potent breast cancer treatment that saved my friend’s life. Oak: I am fascinated by its stories, beauty and longevity, and the ink you can make from the oak galls.
If you would like to start foraging, begin by looking at a plant that you are already familiar with and that you know it is edible. Find out everything you can about this one plant or tree and continue from there.
To find out more about Adele Nozedar and foraging, take a look at her website, Brecon Beacons Foraging, and her Instagram where she is @hedgrowguru. You can also get a copy of her brand-new book here.
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Adele Nozedar is an author, a food writer and a passionate forager. Her books include Foraging with Kids, The Hedgerow Handbook, and The Garden Forager. A keen forager, Adele has led walks in most parts of the UK as well as in Spain, Italy, Greece and India. She is the founder of Brecon Beacons Foraging, which offers regular foraging courses designed to scintillate the senses and help us find the edible plants that are all around us.