Five things to forage this summer
There are some things you'll find to forage that might only occur in the far South West or the wilds of Scotland. However there are plenty of easy to identify and very tasty wild edibles growing in abundance throughout the country at this time of year - including in Somerset and around the site of the Top of the Gorge festival.
Stuart Woodman shares with us his foraging tips ahead of running workshops at this year's Top of the Gorge festival.
Elder trees are found in hedgerows across the UK and the most popular crop is the fragrant flower, which is a staple of summer drinks and desserts. Pick the large white sprays of flowers in the morning on a sunny day and use as soon as you get home for the freshest flavour and aroma. If you've never made elderflower 'champagne' or cordial before then make this the summer you give it a go. There are plenty of recipes available online and they are all inexpensive and easy to make.
Just like all types of mint, watermint is a widespread and vigorous growing plant with a distinctive aroma, which helps you to avoid mistaking it for anything poisonous. Found in damp meadows and beside rivers and streams, watermint has a lovely peppermint flavour and can be used for a wild twist on any recipe that calls for regular mint.
Not something you find every day or in great quantities, but one of the most delicious treasures of foraging in the British summer. Much smaller than cultivated varieties, what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in flavour.
Another common and easy to identify plant, frequently found near the coast, you'll notice its tall stems and feathery leaves from spring onwards and then a yellow spray of flowers in the summer, before turning to seeds later on. Fennel is a wonderfully aromatic herb with a fresh, aniseed flavour.
Found on salt marshes and mudflats around the British Isles, this cactus like wild green is a delicacy often paired with fish on restaurant menus. Delicately salty with a light crunch this is a true gourmet foraging find.
Stuart Woodman will be giving hands-on, flavour-infused walking talks about foraging at this year’s Top of the Gorge festival, which takes place 14-16 June in and around a National Trust meadow atop Cheddar Gorge, in the heart of the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Stuart also specialises in making beers brewed with seasonal and wild plants, using wild yeasts to produce farmhouse ales. See www.woodmanswildale.co.uk for more.