Do you know your Docks from your Dandelions or your Sorrel from your Samphire and even more importantly are they safe to eat? I found answers to these questions and lots more when I joined Wild food and foraging experts Emma Gunn and Matt Vernon on the lovely Pendower beach near Portscatho.
Both Emma and Matt are passionate about reconnecting people with nature and the wild larder that surround us all. They both have years of practical hands on foraging and both love introducing people to the wild plants that can enrich and enliven many recipes and all to be had for free.
Our introduction explained how important it was to not ‘over forage’ just pick a leaf or flower here and there, not decimate one patch, also to be absolutely sure with your plant identification- surprisingly there are more plants that can kill you than fungi! Also they pointed out that it is illegal to dig up the roots of any wild plant and to always collect leaves, fruit and flowers from above the height that a dog can pee……..
We pottered out from the National Trust car park along the footpath leading to Melinsey Mill with Matt and Emma doing an amazing double act showing us many edible plants and seeds and encouraging us all to taste them all. I thought I knew most of the local wild plant names but Emma managed to quote their Latin names as well as plant families too – (she has written 3 books with the title ‘Never Mind the Burdocks’).
We found that sorrel had an amazing lemony taste, giant hogweed seeds added a nutty flavour to any recipe, nettles were great in soup and a side vegetable, pennywort leaves could be used as plasters on wounds and you can eat all the parts of a dandelion, the hollow stem even making a wonderful substitute for noodles.
Of course many wild plants have medicinal properties and both leaders shared their tips for plants to use on wounds or to infuse as tonics and cures.
Our return path led us back to the beach and we examined the shoreline plants such as rock samphire, sea beet, sea radish and sea rocket. Emma even scooted off down to the shore and brought back 4 types of edible seaweed to identify.
After the walk we all headed to the top of the beach where a feast awaited. First course was homemade soft cheese and pickled wild greens (my favourite was Ransome flower buds) followed by Hogweed frittata and a fire smoked pilaf complete with many of the leaves we had just pickled. Emma rustled up a Summer Berry Mess with mint sugar and rose hip syrup rounded off with Matt’s Wild Gin and Tonic.
I’m now filled with enthusiasm to try a few new recipes with foraged food and confident that I can identify those I liked again. It is amazing that most of these wild plants grow happily without any input from us, no trimming, feeding or weeding and until recent times provided both nourishment and medicine.
Perhaps it’s time to take the slow lane, Walk out in the fresh air, use our senses, wake up the taste buds and start to value the bounty that Mother Nature provides for free?
You can find details of courses and foraging days all around Cornwall on Matt’s website
www.cornishwildfood.co.uk and Emma’s books here www.nevermindtheburdocks.co.
Enjoy a break in Cornwall
If you would like to enjoy a break in Cornwall, we’ve got a range of cottages which sleep 4-12 people – find out more and check availability.
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