Wild food has never been so popular. Want to forage for your own? Primrose Matheson, founder of Primrose’s Kitchen, shares her expert tips…
When she’s not producing her gluten-free, organic museli in her home county of Dorset, Primrose Matheson loves to browse the hedgerows and beaches for all that nature’s larder can provide. Now she shares her own tips for foraging for those who those who want their food a little bit wilder.
What got you into foraging?
“Having grown up on the island of Guernsey I spent my childhood scrabbling over rocks to go shrimping and ormering at low tides or scouring the beaches for polished glass and little yellow periwinkles, it seems to me that the world of foraging has always been close to my heart!
“Although the word foraging (‘to wander or go in search of provisions’) covers all manner of foods, we are more familiar with its association with plants and as a vegetarian now this is also where my attention is spent. I love the connection it gives you to your environment, it allows you to really notice the changing of the seasons. This in turn helps you feel more connected to your body, using the seasonality of plants, you become aware of good times to cleanse or build up your system.
“Foraging is a meditational process which connects you to the moment and living in Dorset where everything seems so plentiful it does also instil a sense of gratitude for nature and its beauty and abundance. I love the magic of the doctrine of signatures which states that herbs resemble, through shape or colour, various parts of the body and can be used to treat ailments related to those parts of the body.
“This reminds us that everything in our life, the things, the people, the animals, the children, the herbs – are all our teachers and we have something to learn from them all if only we learn to listen. A clear example of this are the elder berries of the elder tree whose purple alveoli like berries drop in bronchial like branches. Purple is associated with respiration and circulation whereas yellow plants tend to be kidney and liver related.
Where have you foraged?
“I have foraged on the beaches in Guernsey for things like sea lettuce (Ulva), a green algae that can be added to broths or dried as a snack as well as sea beet often called wild spinach. I’ve spent time in beautiful Holkham, Norfolk and also on the Sussex coast picking samphire which is one of my favourite sea vegetables, delicious steamed with a simple dressing as a starter like asparagus.
“In Dorset I’ve stayed inland picking my favourite horse mushrooms (Agaricus Arvensis) as well as looking for more easily recognizable plants like Elderberry, Nettles, Cleavers, wood sorrel and blackberries.
Tempted? Look for these…
Elderberry trees are wonderful as not only can you make delicious cordials in the summer months when they are flowering you can also make wonderful chest tonics from their berries in the winter months.
Nettles, often described as weeds, are a powerful anti-inflammatory and cleanser for the liver and the young leaves can be made into soups, pesto’s and infused for teas.
Cleavers otherwise known as “sticky willy” or “goose grass” are a fantastic blood cleanser and is great for thickening stews. You will notice it by the way it sticks to your clothing as you walk past it!
Wood sorrel, distinguished by its clover like, three heart-shaped leaves, is found in shady locations and makes a decorative addition to salads with its distinctive lemony taste.
Blackberries growing in the autumn are a rich source of Vitamin C. Nature in its wisdom provides them for us at this time to stock up our reserves before the cold winter days set in.
Top tips for foraging beginners
- When foraging stay away from busy roads or areas where dogs can get to so that your foraged plants are free as far as possible from pollution or contamination.
- Do not eat anything you cannot positively identify and deem safe.
- Forage after a rainfall means the plants are more lush and clean and if you are removing roots easier to remove.
- Take a small sharp flick knife with you so as not to tear the stems of the plants.
- Always forage sustainably by leaving some behind in order for it to continue to be there each year.