Last night I went along to the Blackwell Book Shop for the launch of A Handbook of Scotland's Wild Harvest, edited by Fi Martynoga. Before the event even started we were all offered wine from a wide selection made by Cairn O'Mohr from natural wild Scottish ingredients. I thought long and hard and selected the spring oak leaf wine which was beautifully refreshing and smooth. I wanted to be able later to compare it with the autumn oak leaf wine but all the wines were drunk very quickly and there were no seconds!
Foraging is something I keep meaning to do, but although my plant identification skills are pretty good, I'm never sure what is edible or when it is at its best. Plus urban foraging can be a little bit, well, unappealing when you think about how many dogs run about in the wild garlic for example!
Fi Martynoga is an engaging and inspiring speaker and took us through a range of different wild plants that we can eat, giving us hints as to how and when to pick them and how to cook them. The book comes complete with recipes, which is very useful. (I've long had a copy of the pocket version of Food for Free, Richard Mabey's classic of UK foraging, but it doesn't have recipes, so the amateur forager is left a little stuck.)
During her talk, Fi cooked up some nettle bose (a kind of porridge, made from oatmeal). I was astonished that she didn't wear any gloves, and just chopped away and picked up the nettles in her bare hands! She said that her hands have hardened against nettle stings, but I think most people would need to wear gloves when preparing nettles! I certainly would, I seem to over-react to nettle stings. (Interestingly though Fi said that one of her friends who has arthritis will actually put her hands into nettles to lessen the pain of her arthritis!). The bose was delicious!
I obviously haven't yet had time to read the book cover to cover, but have skimmed through it. It looks very useful with recipes for teas, cordials, muffins, salads and preserves. It also gives advice on harvesting, identification and which plants are useful for first aid or crafting! The book features wild plants that are robust and that can be harvested without damage to them or to the ecosystem. (This is always one of my concerns about foraging, if everyone starts doing it, without necessarily being careful, how much would it damage the natural world?)
A Handbook of Scotland's Wild Harvests published by Saraband Books is a collaboration between Reforesting Scotland and Scottish Wild Harvests Association.
Fi is speaking again at the Edinburgh Book Fringe at Wordpower Books at 1pm, Thursday 16 August. The event is free and will be well worth attending!
As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.