Wednesday 22 August 2012

Foraging and Beekeeping

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.


Carrie said...

Oh how fab! I was so tempted by this show. Thanks for the overview.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I am not into bee keeping Juliet and I am afraid that I don't like honey very much.

I do, however, like Iain McEwan's books! Lucky you.

Dartford Warbler said...

I hope you enjoy the Ian McEwan interview. I wasn`t so keen on "Solar" but I have enjoyed his other books.

Alys Fowlers Foraging book sounds good. I do put allsorts into salads but didn`t know that sow thistle was OK.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Carrie - it was an excellent discussion!

Weaver, I love honey and would like to keep bees but there's nowhere suitable where we live!

Dartford Warbler - it was an excellent interview, I've not read Solar, but want to do so because of the subject matter. I didn't know about sow thistle either, and was quite surprised in fact!

Lucy said...

I prefer honey to Ian McEwan! Steve Benbow was on R4 a little while ago, really interesting. He goes around on his bike in London looking for his bees to see what they're feeding on, he can recognise them because of their colour, he said.

My auntie Elsie was said to have cured a sick cow and saved its life by feeding it on sow thistles, that was probably about 100 years ago. I've tried eating it, but find it bitter and uninteresting, and uncooked the spines are a bit spiny! Chickweed is OK, soft and quite mildly flavoured but as with many wild greens has to be consumed in moderation or can lead to stomach upsets and diarrhoea for a lot of people.

I got the Scotland's Wild Harvests book today, though it could be useful here too, looks good. I am determined to track down sea buckthorn!

eileeninmd said...

Thanks for sharing your review on the discussion. My neighbor is a beekeeper, I love the honey. i hope you are having a great week!

Pomona said...

We have started planting a forest garden which is supposed to end up as a permanent edible landscape. Martin Crawford recommends Tilia - I certainly like limeflower tea! Alys Fowler's book sounds really interesting.

Pomona x

Ms Sparrow said...

Interesting comments about British bees!

RG said...

UUUhhhooo - A nice hot mug of Linden flower tea with a big dollop of wild honey!!!

I may have mentioned this before - Sharon, the Bird Chick, who does Disapproving Rabbits with her husband, keeps bees with Neil Gaiman and they often win prizes in the Minnesota fair. She sometimes blogs about the experiences on her Birdchick blog!
"Eat Your Yard" is a movement around here!