We asked forager Mark Williams what he gets out of wild stuff that he doesn’t get anywhere else.
MW: So much really! Inspiration. If you’re getting cultivated stuff, somebody somewhere has already decided what you’re going to get, because of what’s readily available. If you go into the wild, it’s like, what am I going to bump into?
It’s absolutely typical that you go looking for one thing, you find something else. And your inspiration comes from that. It’s like ‘Oh right, well, I had in my head I want to make X, but in actual fact that’s not in season or it doesn’t taste good right now, or it’s not about here, it’s not of the place, of the moment.’
So let’s get over this idea of having recipes. It’s like you have a recipe in your head, then you have to go look for those specific ingredients. If you just want to go and see what’s happening, you get stuff at its prime just throwing itself at you, and then think about what you’re going to make with it. It turns the whole recipe idea on its head, I would say.
I talk about how there are two types of foraging. One is going back somewhere where you know stuff is – that’s harvesting. Like going back to a favourite spot and that’s really lovely; you know, every year you go back to the same sloe patch, or the same bit of hogweed in the spring, and that’s really nice, that’s familiarity.
The other type of foraging is explorative stuff, where you go out and you go to a new area and then you see what the flavour of that area is. And you don’t know, it’s a surprise, you’re getting a mixed bag. And to me, that’s a springboard for creativity. The other one is like going to your larder and the places that you know, and that does work better with recipes and so on, whereas going and exploring somewhere new, or going and identifying plants that are new to you, that’s where creativity kind of starts. It’s like the springboard for creativity really isn’t it.
If you need more information, we can’t recommend Mark’s articles highly enough.
There is also a wealth of foraging content on his own website, Galloway Wild Foods. Do try and book a walk with Scotland’s only professional foraging tutor if you get the chance…