What’s it really like?
“We bring the botanicals in fresh – a day’s picking – and lay them out on the shelves to dry. Something like birch leaves, we strip the leaves off and they just go on the shelf. Something like the Elderflower we want every individual tiny flower, but not the stalk. You can fill a bucket in 10 minutes, of Elderflower, but the rule is don’t get more than a bucketful because you’ll be here all night stripping them all!
“It’s not as idyllic as you think,” she laughs, “but James and I are both quite happy with repetitive tasks, I’ll be honest! We’re not very trendy foragers! But we are probably more in tune with the seasons than many other jobs…”
Mapping the Year
Picking can start in late March or April if the gorse is early and goes right through to August and September when the honeyed heather and aromatic bog myrtle need to be selected. In the winter that’s the time for planning, researching and mapping.
They are in the process of digitally mapping where the botanicals can be found. They’ll build up a database of the different species and be able to monitor population health over time. It’s easy to see how this knowledge might also link into a bigger picture, a wider information-gathering effort about our ecosystem and how it compares with other islands or locales.
Kate’s degree was in Geography; the academic and the practical come together in this role. “It is varied, what we do. You go from picking, to communicating about what we do, to research and development. You’re outside, and you can just get on with it… I think I’ll be picking leaves to the end of my days!”
Check out some of Kate’s articles for The Botanist here:
Islay Roots >
Wild Rosehip Syrup >
The Machair >