Slow down your walks, notice the seasons and make the most of nature’s bounty with Cornwall-based, forager Rachel Lambert
Rachel Lambert is a foraging guide, award-winning author, recipe creator and blogger. She’s been teaching people to forage since 2007 and loves introducing them to the abundance of edible plants that surround us. She has written two pocketbooks on foraging and cooking in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and adores being outdoors, gathering nature’s bounty.
Rachel says, “Foraging is a fun and enlivening way to appreciate the environment and access to fresh, seasonal food. It’s also an excuse for outdoor adventures and quirky investigations in the kitchen. After walking together, I often hear people say, ‘I’ll never look at a hedgerow in the same way again’ and every time it makes me smile.” Here, she shares her love of wild food and some tips for the budding forager.
Forget your worries & see your environment anew
Stepping into a landscape rich with sounds, smells and wild tastes is my type of heaven. I love how nature captures my attention and helps me forget my frivolous or pressing worries, even for just a moment.
A walk in nature can be a wonderful way to let go and ignite a child-like joy in the simple things in life. Whether it is along hedgerows, an overgrown cut-through or down to the beach. I have also had wonderful moments admiring a rowan tree on the South Bank in London and smelling pineapple weed coming through the cracks in the pavement. Whether you’re urban or rural, nature has a way of reaching us, if we can just stop, notice and let her in.
Sensing as a forager
As a forager, a walk anywhere automatically means I’m noticing food. The flourishing edible weeds in their happy place, where no one has placed them, but they thrive anyway. Sometimes a tree may be planted there, like the rowan tree, with passersby unknowingly leaving her vitamin C-rich berries to the birds.
As I walk, I am taking in the colours, movements, textures, size and smell of plants. As summer unfolds, I notice the flowers turning to seed and the scented roses start to grow hips. Freshly fallen rose petals can still be gathered though, and I never regret stopping to smell the roses, particularly in the warm summer air.
Notice and stay curious
Whether you’re a stroller, a hiker, a commuter or an ambler, it’s worth taking a moment to really look, touch and sniff. Never picking or tasting unless you’re sure of what you’ve found but being curious and starting to notice can be a satisfying way to be. Perhaps unripe, green elderberries hang above your head, waiting for the end of summer to turn them black and juicy. The yellow, domed heads of pineapple weed is a wonderful plant for spotting on footpaths and pavements, as it loves to grow on compacted soil and smells of pineapple when rubbed.
Take a little, leave a lot
Here in Cornwall I love the abundance of wild edibles, yet I always follow the mantra: ‘take a little and leave a lot’. Pick prolific weeds that give a lot of themselves and are perhaps despised (though useful to a forager) or start with the plants that you’re familiar with first.
Some ways to use the wild edibles I’ve mentioned:
- Rowan berries are best cooked and have a sophisticated flavour with a twist of bitter. They’re perfect sweetened for cordials, jellies and cocktails.
- Elderberries are also best cooked, have anti-viral properties and make a delicious cordial or fruit vinegar. They can cause stomach upsets if eaten raw.
- Pineapple weed is a member of the daisy family and is also known as wild or false chamomile. It’s not the same as chamomile but can be used as a substitute with similar calming effects. Add into salads or use as a herbal tea. Some people have an allergic reaction to the daisy family and it shouldn’t be eat in large amounts.
- Roses are all edible but be sure they haven’t been sprayed. Take a moment to smell the roses and choose the most scented petals to infuse and make your own rose water, syrup or ice creams. Just pick the petals that come away easily and not the whole flower head. My favourite is Japanese rose (Rosa rugosa), also known as beach rose as it grows by the sea as well as inland.
For more from our Make Time with Seasalt & Pukka partnership – including creative ideas, nourishing recipes and meditations – sign up to become a Seasalt Friend and we’ll make sure you don’t miss a thing.