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Foraged Island Botanicals
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Thoughts on Wild Flavour

11th August 2017
by Jane Carswell in Thinking Wild.

Now I've worked for The Botanist for a bit, I quite regularly catch myself saying things like, "foraging, you're always learning something new." You can be in a familiar environment but see it differently once you have experienced a new dimension of edible plants and incredible flavours. It's like expanding your horizons and tightening your focus at the same time.

The continual expansion of highly-subjective, experiential knowledge does seem to be the case for novices and professional foragers alike; is it part of some bigger trend? 

Mark Williams, Scotland's only full time foraging tutor, relates.  "I think that seaarrow grass was something that I personally discovered myself [see the story here], which is not the same as saying that somebody else hasn't discovered it somewhere else - that happens all the time.

"I've discussed this with other foragers, there's so much interest in foraging and in exploring the wild flavours at the moment, that people are making these discoveries simultaneously across the world, or across countries, or across places where the same plants grow.  

"Partly, we're re-discovering forgotten things in our wild larder, but partly there is this exciting thing of feeling that you're getting new stuff that's not really been eaten before."

Perhaps the desire for knowledge and the instinct towards self-reliance are rising against more centralised systems of food supply and control. Could the reassertion of who we are through what we consume be tugging at us exactly because we we're in a crisis of provenance, being more mobile, and more alienated as a species, than ever before? Is there a nagging fear there that we are too dependent on the state, or the industrial-scale, somewhat-shady, supply chain?

There's the old argument that knowledge is power. And knowledge of what you can eat from the great wild world, while it's a bit trendy now, if it came to the crunch, could be extremely useful.

sea sandwort in flower at Bruichladdich

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