Monday, 14 November 2016

Natural Pathways Autumn Forage


Not so long ago I attended a woodland/ estuary 1-2-1 forage with Carol Hunt, and did a Natural Pathways nature awareness day with Hannah Nicholls and early November saw me I return to Kent  to do an Autumn forage with the pair of them. I did so with a little trepidation because there is every possibility that it will involve fungi which is something that I absolutely can't stand (well, apart form this bushcraft 'sweetie' involving the rather neutral Jelly Ear). 


We all met up around a fire circle located in the middle of a debris shelter ring which was rather intimate and cosy for such an event. After brief introductions, a brew and parish notices we headed off to see what was about with Carol leading and Hannah scouting ahead.

Although November is rather late in the year there were still some edibles about in good condition such as the nettle seeds and Ground Ivy that Carol is holding above. Now I would liken going on a forage to Youtube in that it is so easy to get distracted and delayed and so it proved to be the case, I'd say we'd moved all of fifty feet from the base camp in 20 minutes simply because in the distance we found a glade and open setting in which we found plenty to talk about.

The forage didn't yield any useable fungi as those edibles found were a little past their best but nevertheless the walk provided Carol with plenty of examples of different types to show us some of the key ID features.


The one thing above all else that was available in profusion was Chestnuts, not only were they plump but also brown from top to bottom. The  Beech mast has been good this year and there were still some fat nuts to be found. 


It was also interesting as we headed back to see some opportunistic growth in a stand of Sweet Chestnut that had been thinned out and coppiced with two examples being a young raspberry cane and Chickweed.

Hannah had headed back to the base camp towards the end of the forage to go the fire going which, as it was turning a little nippy, was lovely to come back to. So we all had another brew and got some lunch down us.


And then it was onto a bit of cooking. Carol's had erected a wonderful display table with informative books, ingredients and store cupboard staples and there was also some Walnut Nocino and Sloe Gin to try.


Rather fortuitously for us Carol had done a foraging talk the previous day and not only had some goodies left over but had some Burdock root already prepared which meant that we didn't even have to chop it, let alone dig it up. I rather like the picture on the left as it looks like a police lineup with Burdock, Horseradish and Sea Beet being the 'suspects'.

The Burdock was to be the main ingredient in a stir fry which I started to help with whilst the other half of the clients started prepping some chestnut and Acorn patties.  


Whilst ingredients were being prepped we  tried some of the afore mentioned goodies on offer.  Foraged walnut, Hazelnut and Hogweed seed pastry whorl (I can take or leave Hogweed seed but it absolutely worked in this pastry) and apple, Rosehip and Sloe layered pudding (all held together with a gelling agent).

A bletted Medlar which we tried and a previously made Chestnut and Acorn meal patty. The base of the patty was pureed Chick pea and the combination almost had a meaty feel to it.

A taster of Carol's homemade Korean style lacto fermented  Kimchi and rather ominously for a mushroomophobe, some jelly Ear fungus. To be fair a small about of the latter went into the stirfry but as it's a fairly neutral flavour into what was ultimately a punchy stir fry I couldn't really taste them.

And so everyone was busily going between the prep area and the fire as things started moving on apace.


However when the roasted Chestnuts were ready there was something of a temporary blip in the gastronomic productivity.

And here we have a shot of the patties browning and the Stirfry, er, stirred. Everyone got a taste of both dishes at the end. On my forage with Carol we did some foraged greens cooked in Tom Yam and I was rather pleased to see some find it's way into the wok this time.

And this shot further back shows all the attendees scoffing their grub once all the prep and cooking was done.

Once we were all cleared away we gathered for a group shot in a time honoured fashion and headed off. It was really nice to catch up with Hannah and Carol again and I told them both that the day had more than surpassed my expectations. 

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