Friday, 27 July 2012

And now for foraging

I had the first raspberry of the year today: warmed by the sun, with a slight tartness, it was the perfect way to announce the official opening of an Edinburgh summer. The blackberries are flowering on the abandoned railway path I walk along between home and work, promising a bumper crop later on.

So when I went to a talk on Wild Harvests, I felt a kinship with the editor, Fi Martynoga, who had started foraging at age 3. I think I must have been a bit older, since my first memory of foraging is when my sister and I would go onto the railway embankment and collect ripe blackberries. We'd climb up and down the slope, disregarding the thorns and the occasional trains; we had a small sandy den where we'd squat and wave to passing trains. In those days, we'd no idea of the risks we were running, either annoying the staff in the station a mere couple of hundred yards away, having an accident with the train or even eating polluted fruit. In my memories of those days, the sun was always shining.

Fi praised nettles and made some nettle browse from chopped up nettles, oatmeal, seasonsings and a knob of butter: nutty, surprisingly delicious, I may make it myself another time. The book has a recipe for nettle pesto, which sounds interesting. This time of year, though, the nettles are fully grown, but that's no problem - apparently it's possible to weave the strings of the stalks and even make silk-like stockings from them - and never mind the stings, they can be beneficial medicinally.

Will I be more than an opportunistic forager? Unsure at present. I will still pick the wild berries I find and celebrate St Patrick's Day with wild garlic. I'll make teas from more than the Iona mint I use which romps round my balcony. Collecting and eating seaweed will be a challenge. St Columba did it, and discussed  the delights of "cropping dulse from the rock", so maybe I'll use the seaweed for more than the annual fertilisation of the garden.