I've blogged a couple of times recently about foraging (see my posts here and here) so I was particularly pleased to get a press ticket (via Clicket) for this talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Alys Fowler is the author of several books, most recently The Thrifty Forager. She gave a very informative illustrated mini-presentation on some of the plant species that can be foraged in urban areas of the UK. She recommended the young leaves of lime (linden) trees as a lettuce substitute, while pointing out that the flowers make a lovely tea. Chickweed, sow thistle and wild rocket are all species whose leaves can be used in salads. The leaves of many species including nettles, dead nettles and bladder campion can be used in soups. She gave a wonderful description of garlic mustard leaves as a 'Willy Wonka type of foraged leaf, it starts off as a very strong mustard taste, then as you chew it changes into a very distinctive garlic flavour. She talked about the value of urban apples, and explained that apple trees store pollution in their leaves and the apples themselves are free of toxins as long as you peel them. She also made a very clear plea for people to be considerate foragers and to take only what they need and to be sure to leave enough for other foragers and more importantly the wildlife.Her book also goes into quite some detail apparently (though she didn't say a lot about this in the presentation) about the need to plant edible landscapes and she recommended Incredible Edible Todmorden as an example of a community that has really dedicated itself to creating such a landscape.
Steve Benbow is the owner of the London Honey Company and author of Urban Beekeeper. He keeps bee hives across London including on the roofs of iconic buildings like the Tate Gallery and Fortnum and Mason (where the bee hives are particularly decorative and a red carpet was laid out on the day the hives were officially opened!). These bees produce excellent honey. Steve spoke about his journey as a beekeeper, starting with the bee hives on the tops of New York apartment blocks which had been his first inspiration. He has designed a bee taxi, that is decorated on the outside in a furry bee design, inside of which is a cinema that shows bee movies to educate children and young people on the importance of bees. He recommends UK bee keepers to use British bees, which are dark (so they can absorb heat) and don't mind the rain too much, they're also thrifty and hard working compared to the golden coloured bees from hotter climates, which also get really stressed on the journey when they're imported here.
Both Alys and Steve have found that foraging and beekeeping have helped them to develop friendships and community links as well as helping them to feel more a part of their local ecology.
The Thrifty Forager by Alys Fowler is published by Kyle Books
The Urban Beekeeper by Steve Benbow is published by Square Peg
This morning, I had been lucky enough to have a ticket for Mark Lawson's excellent interview with Iam McEwan at the BBC Edinburgh Festival. You can catch it on Front Row, Radio 4 tonight at 7.15pm.
And I'm delighted to have a piece on late summer at Musselburgh up at Lothian Life.
As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other pages where you can find out more.