The Botanist.

Wild. Foraged. Distilled.

22
Foraged Island Botanicals
The first and only Islay dry gin

WILD ISLAY. THE HEBRIDEAN ISLAND HOmE OF THE BOTANIST CLINGS TO THE EDGE OF THE OCEAN IN THE TEETH OF ATLANTIC WEATHER SYSTEmS.

22 FORAGED ISLAND BOTANICALS. HAND-PICKED LOCALLY AND SUSTAINABLY HERE ON ISLAY BY OUR OWN BOTANICAL SCIENTISTS.

PROGRESSIVE HEBRIDEAN DISTILLERS. THE BOTANIST IS THE ESSENCE OF OUR PHILOSOPHY, OUR ART AND OUR PIONEERING SPIRIT.

Here and Now

20th February 2017
by The Botanist Editor in Our Foraging.

Hairy bittercress

Hairy bittercress foraged winter greens

We are going to start off this blog with a note about the nutritous, inconspicuous, and ubiquitous hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta.

Head of Laddie communications Carl Reavey loves this over-looked winter green with an oatcake when he's been out for a typically galeforce lunchtime walk with his wife Jan, another member of the team.

A super-abundant brassica that grows in rosettes and quickly colonises newly broken ground, hairy bittercress makes a tasty addition to any salad, and is good with potatoes. Here's an iPhone video to help with recognition

Rowan Buds

foraging winter rowan buds

It looks like there is nothing going on here, the branches / cupboards are bare, but actually the tree is in rude health and there is a lot of energy being concentrated into the new buds. This energy translates as flavour, which can be extracted by chewing over a few velvety tips or by infusing it in alcohol (see advice on tinctures here >>): we get a tannic marzipan, strawberry, tobacco.

Scarlet Elf Cups

winter foraging scarlet elf cups

Described by our foraging friend Mark Williams as having a "subtle, earthy flavour with perhaps a hint of beetroot", it's the visual thrill that these small edible mushrooms represent that is so lovely in the midst of a dripping winter wood. Sarcoscypha coccinea or Sarcoscypha austriaca, closely related variants, float on top of a broth beautifully (miso / dashi / chicken / porcini as you please), or with a little garlic salt add something elfish to scrambled eggs. 

Mint Coming Through

new season applemint

The applemint's coming up in Islay! You can see from its furry leaves and stem why it is also commonly called "woolly mint". The texture at this stage is very oily, the flavour sweet and subtle, having not yet developed the pungent mintyness of the established summer plants. The young leaves give a simple yet tasty twist to a late winter Botanist and tonic.

Gorse Begins

gorse coming into flower

Bloom coverage is at, what, 15%, and the early blossoms of this member of the pea family have a flavour from the leguminous end of the spectrum, rather than the tropical swoons they will reach in full Spring. With some blue-sky days, some rainbow days, and some absolute wild-wash-out days, it definitely feels like we're on the threshold of a change in the seasons now. 

Baby Scurvy 

new growth scurvy grass

There are signs of the nascent season amoung the grassy humps on the shore. These waxy succulent leaves of the natural flavour-bomb "scurvy grass" (Cochlearia), a brassica related to horseradish and wasabi, will eventually be three or four times the size with a powerful taste to match. Stick that in your red snapper and rage against the rain...

 

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