It was good to have Ellen Zachos from New York visit us recently. Ellen is the author of a number of books, including ‘Backyard Foraging’ which is an introduction to “65 familiar plants you didn’t know you could eat” commonly found in North American gardens (backyards). Ellen leads foraging walks and teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, where she received her certification in Commercial Horticulture and Ethnobotany. Ellen will be hosting a series of workshops across the USA to explore the concept of foraged mixology and introduce the 22 island botanicals used in The Botanist.
It was an extremely interesting and inspiring visit, despite the best efforts of the Islay climate to spoil things – it rained very heavily for much of the time. This did not dampen our enthusiasm however and were able to get out on some rather wet walks, once to the old Highland Clearance village of Olistadh on the Rhinns of Islay, and once along the River Sorn in Bridgend.
We were also able to take Ellen to meet our botanists, Dr Richard and Mavis Gulliver, who collect and dry the Islay botanicals to prepare them for distillations of The Botanist.
The walk to Olistadh saw us foraging for a variety of wild plants including sorrel, violets, spruce tips, rowan leaves and whin flowers, while a short journey to the beach at Kilchiaran turned up aromatic water mint and sweet gale. The extremely wet session in Bridgend Woods resulted in some pungent wild garlic, birch leaves and some dandelion and burdock tubers.
Back at the distillery, Ellen gave a demonstration about how to make foraged syrups and bitters with what we had collected.
Ellen’s book ‘Backyard Foraging’ is published by Storey – America’s Garden Publisher www.storey.com