Foraging and Wild Food Cooking with Carol Hunt & Natural Pathways

This weekend I combined my love of being outdoors with my love of food and cooking. I signed up for a day course introduction to foraging and wild cooking. I’ve wanted to do this for awhile, as i’ve become increasingly interested in growing my own food and making use of food found in nature.

During my hike across Scandinavia, I noticed an abundance of edible berries. There were wild blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and lingonberries growing along the trail. The locals make good use of all of these in everyday cooking. I became aware that many of the meals I had in Sweden and Norway included foraged foods. My favourites including lingonberry and chanterelle mushrooms, which I had on several occasions. These foods would be really expensive to buy from a supermarket and a real luxury. I found myself wishing that all of these things could be found so readily in the woodlands back home.

Image looking up at the sky through woodland trees

Whilst i’m unlikely to come across a wild lingonberry in England, I am aware that there are foods to be found (and more than just the trusty blackberry). I’ve done a little foraging over the past couple of years, just things like sloes, rosehip, blackberry (of course) and apples, but have wanted to learn more. I’m trying to shift my food consumption habits to be more sustainable and eco-friendly. Learning about the diverse, free, wild foods out there is only a good thing for that. I’m becoming frustrated with supermarket packaging and wastage and damage caused by the commercial nature of how we get our food today.

So, I finally decided to take a positive step forward in learning about what we have here in our forests. I decided to book onto a introductory course to learn about foraging for wild foods. I searched online and surprisingly, there were a lot of courses to choose from, but I booked through Meetup onto the ‘Foraging and Wild Food Cooking with Carol Hunt & Natural Pathways‘ course.

The day started by meeting the group in a beautiful woodland about a 35 minute drive from my house that i’ve never been to before. We spoke a little about why we were interested in foraging and Carol answered some of our questions. Next she gave us an introduction into some of the do’s and don’t of gathering wild foods. This included recognising areas to avoid and the limitations of the law.

Image of mushrooms being shown to a group of people

We walked off together into the woods, looking for fungi and interesting plants to discuss. She identified any we were curious about and showed us some edible plants she could find. She gave us an idea of ways in which each can be prepared and encouraging us to smell and taste the plants, using as many senses as possible to develop our ‘food memories’, so that we could better assess these for ourselves in the future if found whilst on a forage.

Foraging edible mushrooms is a complicated business. You really should study in depth before you even think about eating a foraged mushroom. Carol has over ten years of experience but even she is not confident about eating every edible mushroom out there. As she taught us, it is so easy to mistake a poisonous mushroom for one you can eat. We didn’t gather any mushrooms, the edible ones were too old, though we did gather chestnuts to take back and roast on the fire.

Image of a basket carrying foraged chestnuts and a pinecone

At the end of our walk, we headed back to camp to try some baked pastry goods that Carol had brought with her. Ingredients included Hogweed Seed, Chestnut, Acorn, Apple, Rose hip, Sloes and Burdock root. We also had a little tipple of Nocino (Walnut Brandy) and Sloe Gin.

Next we had a go at making Carols vegan burgers made from Chickpeas, chestnuts, re-hydrated acorn meal, hogweed seeds, thyme and onion. We also made a Burdock root stir fry using chilli, garlic, ginger, burdock root, oyster mushrooms, soy sauce, chestnuts and horse radish leaf. The bulk of ingredients foraged with a few larder staples. This opened my eyes to how we can supplement our diets with free found foods. Even if it’s just a seed to add a little intrigue and flavour. Both were delicious.

Image of outdoor cooking of a stirfry with wild foods

Carol and Hannah provided us with some recipes to take home. They also recommended some good books to study from. If you have an interest in learning how to forage, Carol recommends using and comparing several books, rather than relying on one for information. Buy up-to-date copies of the books, because the information is changeable. It can also become diluted as time goes by. Notable authors include Roger Philips, Richard Maybe and Micheal Jordan.

I learnt so much from the day that I didn’t expect. I can now appreciate thousands of years of accumulated knowledge available and think of food and medicine more as one. Recognising the way in which foods affect our body and can work with and against modern medicines. Plants can used as both food and remedy.

Image of mushrooms growing on a mossy tree

This was a very simple introduction, so i’m no expert yet. If you have an interest in learning how to forage, I recommend an introduction like this. This way you get to observe the plants where they grow. You get to smell, taste and touch them, and put them into context by learning how to use them in a dish. I’m looking forward to getting some books, spending more time out in nature, looking for and learning about plants. I hope that i’ll become confident enough to find, identify and use wild foods in my cooking.

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  • I’m really glad you enjoyed the day, it was great to meet you. These are just some of the books that we talked about, although of course there are many many others out there.

    Mushrooms – Roger Phillips

    Wild Food: A Complete Guide for Foragers – Roger Phillips

    The Encyclopedia of Fungi of Britain and Europe Paperback – Michael Jordan

    • It was really good, definitely recommend – though I can’t really identify any mushrooms still, it’s inspired me to get a book and take it out with me 🙂

  • Such lovely images and this course seems to have been a very very good one. I want to come and take it myself! The food sounds really yummy as well…

    That part about the medicine is very interesting. Today people eat painkillers and all sorts of medicine all the time and have no idea what’s in it, and have all but forgotten about the time when plants where “all we had”.

    I never eat medicine and that lemonade you guys got to taste here is made from a flower that actually helps when you have fever or a headache and it grows in abundance here during summer 😀

    Answer: Yeah I guess I have but that’s just life you know. There wouldn’t be any ups if there weren’t any downs. Thanks <3 And Andreas says thanks too 😀

    • Thank you, it was great – maybe when you visit 😉

      Yeah i’m trying to take less medication, I should take 8 prescribed tablets a day (but I usually fail because I hate them so much) but I hope that I can eventually stop taking them if I can work out a diet that helps. I’ve watched some great documentaries about how diet changes have helped people with auto immune diseases and how things like high doses of vitamin c have had interesting effects in regards to cancer. I’m becoming more cynical about pharmaceuticals but then at the same time, my mother wouldn’t be around now if it was for doctors and medicine so it is hard to shun completely.

      Word! <3

  • I’d love to do something like that when I visit! Maybe you will be so knowledgeable then that you can teach me yourself 😀

    Yeah it’s of course hard if you have more serious illnesses or conditions. I mean I’m at a level where I refuse to take painkillers against headache or menstrual ache.

    But I do think changing your diet and being more healthy can definitely help to reduce the amount of medicines one needs to take. I hope your research goes well and that you find a way that works really well for you! It’s so individual and what works for others might not be good for you and the other way around.

    Answer: Awh thank you! There are generally a lot of clothes and products with poor quality in all second hand shops and it takes a while to learn how to properly look, see past that and find the treasures. Of course some shops are better than other and some are also a bit over pricey. Affluent huh? had to look that up so now I learned a new English word! And yeah, I imagine what kind of products you find at the shops depend greatly upon where they’re located and what types of people are handing in their used stuff there. Sweden in the summer is full of really good, temporary thrift markets where I always make really great finds but usually with interior stuff or kitchen things / photography props – not so much clothing. You will have to search the world wide web, I am sure there must be an English version of Sellpy!

    Oh and by the way, I saw that Angeliqa is there now – hug her from me will you? ? <3

    • Hopefully 🙂

      Ah yeahh I am usually the same, though I have a terrible cold right now and have taken something because I have work to do, it has helped a lot.

      Thank you!

      Haha glad I am teaching new words 🙂 Oh I love the markets best, I have found some great jumpers at markets, though I agree they are better for other items. Awhhh yeah I only saw her for a couple of hours in London after work, so sweet and short, I will probably not see her again until next summer, which is when I will hopefully visit you too! 😀