Forage – Stop to smell the flowers… then eat them, too?

Forage for your food, lately, or too scared to pick your own? There’s a whole world of edible plants growing around us, but if the closest you’ve ever been to foraging for food is scrumping apples (or more recently, scrabbling at the red-stickered items in your supermarket’s Reduced section), you need this beautiful book…

Yes, it’s another book we’ve eagerly added to our Fragrant Reads shelves, but although the publishers of Forage: Wild Plants to Gather and Eat say ‘Anybody can enjoy the increasingly popular back-to-nature activity of foraging’, the truth is, very few of us feel confident enough to start picking some of the foliage we see on our daily walks. Thanks to author Liz Knight’s clear descriptions, and the stunning botanical illustrations of Rachel Pedder-Smith, the identification is made far easier and reading this, you’ll really feel encouraged to explore and diversify with wild ingredients.

What’s more, it’ll certainly make you look at flowers in a different way. From honeysuckle cordial (which sounds like something the fairies would drink in A Midsummer Night’s Dream), pickled cherry blossoms, linden leaf madeleines, dandelion petal cake to damson and rose petal preserves, the accompanying recipes sound like a feast for all the senses.

 

Forage: Wild Plants to Gather and Eat by Liz Knight, illustrated by Rachel Pedder-Smith [Laurence King Publishing]
Buy it at Waterstones

There’s such an elegant and understated confidence to Forage, and no wonder – Liz has a wealth of experience, having spent years learning the ways of foraging, founded Forage Fine Foods – a business she runs from her kitchen in rural Herefordshire – where she teaches courses on foraging and cooking wild ingredients, and also sells some delicious foodie finds. You may also have seen her appearing on the eight-part series of Channel 5’s Escape to the Farm with presenter Kate Humble. But if you’ve the idea that Liz was born in the bosom of the country and learned such skills at her mother’s knee, it certainly didn’t come naturally.

 

 

‘I grew up in normal street in a normal town just outside London,’ says Liz, and it turns out she gradually grew to love freshly picked food having tasted the tomatoes from a neighbour’s greenhouse, and later, worked in care homes and talked to the older residents. Explains Liz:

‘These people knew food; they taught me how to make butter, what cuts of meat to buy and how to cook it, what leaves to nibble on and what food should really taste like…Thanks to them I got a fire in my belly about the wild, wonderful food of Britain and that fire turned into Forage.’

Nowadays we’re becoming used to seeing ‘foraged food’ celebrated on menus of fine dining restaurants, but really Liz wants everyone to feel confident enough to try their hand at picking ingredients growing wild locally. Because Liz’s life now truly is spent searching the local hedgerows in search of scrumptious finds, and we’re sure reading this book will sew some more seeds of the passion for foraging. Now you won’t only want to stop to smell the roses (and wild cherry blossom, linden trees, honeysuckle, gorse…) but eat them (once safely identified!) too.

By Suzy Nightingale

Chelsea Fringe: Free fragrant talks, from Georgian perfume to the scented room and beyond…

Perhaps seen as a floral equivalent of the Edinburgh Fringe, The Chelsea Fringe Festival is actually entirely independent of The Chelsea Flower Show, though acts with its full support. Intended to extend the enjoyment of gardens and all things verdant to well beyond a show ground setting, there are all manner of events taking place around the UK (and beyond) to celebrate this year.

We were particularly excited to hear about a series of talks focusing on perfume, with subjects ranging from Georgian and 19th Century perfume, the scented room, and the simulation of nature in 20th Century perfume (the last in that list being hosted by our very dear friend, Lizzie Ostrom -aka Odette Toilette!)

Chelsea Fringe say:Stephen Nelson is a plantsman and perfumer who specialises in re-creating historic fragrances. As part of the Chelsea Fringe, Town House will host talks by Stephen Nelson, centred around the English garden and its direct link to perfume over the past four centuries.’

Stephen has been commissioned to create everything from historically accurate pomander beads to perfumed leather from the 16th century, an 18th century spicy pot pourri and a handkerchief scent from the 19th century.

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Working extensively within horticulture and running his own nursery, Stephen breeds a number of fragrant plants including pinks, lilacs and lavender – some of which have been featured in planting schemes at the official Chelsea Flower Show.

What’s more, Stephen personally cultivates many of the ingredients used in his historical perfume re-creations – including damask roses, patchouli, orris, verbena, lavender and many more – putting him in the unusual position of seeing the fragrance through from seed to finished scent.

Have a look at the full range of events happening around the country, as there’s bound to be one near you!

A number of the talks are taking place at the historic Town House in London’s East End, and the series there has been dubbed ‘Garden Extracts’. Here’s the scent-centric talks that we’ll be writing in our diaries – and we can’t wait to get (our noses) stuck in…

TUE 31 MAY, 14:30pm: Free
Perfume in Georgian London – talk by Stephen Nelson.

THU 2 JUN, 14:30pm: Free
The Scented Room – talk by Stephen Nelson.

SUN 5 JUN, 14:30: Free
20th Century Perfume and the Simulation of Nature – talk by Lizzie Ostrom.

Written by Suzy Nightingale