I haven’t done a list post in a while… I do love lists! As do most bloggers I expect. It occurred to me recently that this might be a handy list to share: what do I think are the key tools for foraging?
One of the joys of foraging of course is using little more than your noddle to collect the fruits of the earth for free. I just made a hazelnut spread with the help of a couple of store-cupboard ingredients, and similarly apple tarte tatin with some rustled up easy pastry, and my crab apple jelly made from roadside-foraged loot has set well.
However, over the past couple of years I have found that there are just a couple of (mainly pretty obvious) key items that will make your life easier when foraging.
1.The Thrifty Forager by Alys Fowler. There are lots of foraging tomes out there, especially as it appears to be part of the hipster trends of today, and I mainly chose this one because I found it in a charity shop for £2 (foraged!!). It’s a great book though, which has taught me more unusual finds such as Jack-by-the-Hedge and Oregon Hollygrapes, has a few staple recipes, and is a very attractive visual book which is important for carefully identifying your spoils. It also has inspiring stories of people growing their own food (such as the indredible edible Todmorden) and charts of what’s in season and when. My second choice of book, which I have my eye on, is the River Cottage Hedgerow.
2. Wellies. I am amazed when I meet someone who doesn’t own a pair of wellies, they just seem like such an essential part of life. Having said that, mine were by no means expensive – I follow this group on facebook which alerts you to cheap deals on all sorts of random things, and bought some bright pink wellies for £4 which have now survived over year.
3. Apple peeler / corer / slicer. This may seem unnecessary, until you come into possession of a ridiculous glut of apples. We have an apple tree in the front drive which annually bestows us with a preposterous number of ‘Discovery’ apples, early in the season. Peeling and chopping takes so long per apple that last year they were dropping and being left to the wasps. I dislike wasps. They may not have my apples. Solution: this wonderful gadget that I bought from a local hardware store for £15 in Chipping Norton. Result: apple crumble all summer.
4. Doesn’t exist because apparently I can’t count. HA! Mind is on other things ;).
5. The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. This is a cool book. If you like cool books, buy this. When you close it, the sides of the pages are mauve! Ahem. This book does two things right in my… erm… books. Firstly, it’s a great concept – a flavour-wheel of foods which suggests interesting combinations and pairings, to give you inspiration if you like to alter recipes yourself. Secondly, I have this kind of irrational anger at recipe books that are excitingly huge and then have one tiny drawn-out recipe in the middle of each page; this book conversely squeezes whole suggested recipes into some of the paragraphs under the food combination headings without wasting any space.
6. Scissors, secateurs, penknife, etc. This much is fairly self-explanatory – sometimes twist and pull just isn’t good enough. Stalks can be tough, or alternatively plants are sometimes delicate and you don’t want to pull out the whole thing. An addition to this, especially if you are collecting nettles, would be some gardening gloves. My scissors are flowery incidentally :).
7. A bag. I have featured a National Trust bag, as that’s what I usually have on me in the car on the way back from work! But there’s nothing more frustrating than finding a glut of blackberries and ruining your favourite hat filling it with them, only to find that they are full of woolly bits when you get home. Plastic bag, tub, bag for life – be prepared, my foraging friends.
8. Nutcracker. This is my most recent addition to the kitchen. You can get into hazelnuts by stomping on them, or with a mallet, but after buying a £3 nutcracker I found there was a lot more hazelnut left at the end and a lot less shell to find under the toaster, on the floor, in my eye, being eaten by the dog etc. Admittedly a rise in blood blisters did result. Perhaps a slightly better quality one might have helped!
Happy foraging… there are still some ripe treats as the weather is turning. Sloes, medlars, apples, nettles, nasturtiums are all still out where I am. And let me know what you’ve found!