By guest blogger MONICA BURR
As the Late Summer Forage on the evening of Wednesday 27 August was my first forage with Cracking Good Food, I arrived a bit early - so early there was nobody at the meeting spot. I thought maybe I had the wrong place but then I spotted some one with a basket walking towards me, smiling. A forager and her basket - baskets are part of a forager's kit, I now know!
By 13 people, carrying bags, baskets and containers, had gathered. We talked and introduced ourselves. Two people had been on many of Jesper's forages (they had great baskets!) while some people were first timers (no baskets). One woman told me that she jogged regularly in Fletcher Moss Park and thought it would be fun to learn about the plants she was running by each day. Another was interested in learning how to identify edible mushrooms.
Jesper, our forage leader, arrived and off we headed. Over the next three hours, Jesper led us through various parts of the park so we could experience different growing areas. Deep, wet, shady forest, open, sunny meadows, grassy areas with big trees and fallen logs, edges of paths. There were a surprising number of mushrooms just in the grass around the tennis courts! Actually there were mushrooms everywhere although I never would have noticed them if Jesper hadn't pointed them out. We found so many different kinds that I can't remember them all, except Shaggy Ink Caps… these I can now identify. And they are tasty when cooked.
As we walked, Jesper helped us find other edibles. Hawthorn berries, sloe berries, wild horseradish, the seeds from the exploding pods of the Himalayan balsam (who knew?), rosehips, elderberries, blackberries and wild garlic. He explained the nutritional and medicinal benefits of some of the plants as well teaching us how to forage sustainably and responsibly. A visually beautiful example of nature's abundance was finding hundreds of freshly fallen bright yellow oval-shaped plums in a darker, forested area.
The sun sets later these days and I think we were surprised at how soon it got dark. But with the help of light from phones, Jesper set up a camp kitchen and cooked a huge pan of mushrooms and wild garlic. Dessert was stewed plums, blackberries and elderberries served with thick yoghurt. Everyone headed home with containers of yummy wild food and a warm tummy - and perhaps with eyes a little more open to the delicate details that we pass each day.
For details of upcoming Jesper's wild food foraging trips - the next on Wednesday 17 September at 5.30pm - visit the Cracking Good Food website by clicking here.