FORAGING IN THE KENTISH COUNTRYSIDE
With Brogdale Collections
By Freya Rix
“I came away from the walk excited to forage and cook up my own finds.”
Foraging with Brogdale Collections
On a brisk October morning, I met a chirpy group of fellow foragers in a pub in the countryside near Faversham for a foraging walk led by Michael of Rural Courses. Brogdale’s foraging walks offer the opportunity to turn to the undergrowth of hedgerows, fields, and woods to discover what delicacies out there beneath our noses.
Despite the gentle spattering of rain outside we donned hats and coats and were soon too distracted peering into front gardens and verges to even notice the grey day above us. Starting in Norton, we made our way down the road with Michael stopping us regularly to have us sniff a pineapple-scented Wild Chamomile sprouting from the edge of a driveway, or to demonstrate how to identify a Fairy Ring Champignon Mushroom, or to praise the humble Chickweed for its iceberg lettuce-like crunchiness.
We had hardly walked 200 metres from the pub and yet this secret larder of humble and exciting ingredients was being revealed. We hadn’t even needed to venture off the road yet – most were inconspicuously sprouting from between paving slabs or in amongst the long grass of the playing field (the common and easily identifiable Field Mushroom’s favourite spot). Even some non-native garden plants are completely edible and tasty – the berries made by Fuchsias, for example, taste like small grapes.
Autumn is a great time to go foraging
Although it might seem like spring or summer are more fruitful times of year to go out on a foraging expedition, autumn is completely abundant with edible plants. A neat trick is to look out for verges that have been cut back and prompted a second growth of treats such as wild strawberries, sorrel, and the ever-overlooked nettle. (Most leafy forgeable plants are best picked and eaten when young and fresh). Another great aspect of autumnal foraging are the seed heads. Plants dry out and the tasty seeds are easily collectable. A couple of examples from the walk were Common Hogweed – whose slightly citrusy crushed seeds can be used in place of Allspice in wintry baking. Garlic Mustard, and Wild Carrot seeds are great in soups or stews.
Also, in September, fungi start popping up in all shapes, sizes and colours. Foraging and eating your own mushrooms can be daunting but in reality, most tasty varieties are really simple to ID. As we made our way from the village and into the woods, farmland and orchards, Michael pointed out some species and a few ways to be confident as to what they were and where to find them. Untreated grassland such as parks and fields where animals graze are good places to spot Field Mushrooms and Parasol Mushrooms. In woodland your best bet are older forests with mainly Beech and Oak trees and less bramble and other ground cover.
Learning useful hints and tips
One of the best parts of the walk was learning all the small insider tips and tricks. I’ve been on a few foraging rambles so recognised a handful of the plants and mushrooms Michael pointed out, but the tips on how to collect, recognise, store, prepare and cook them were really useful.
It was surprising how easy it is to happen across really tasty ingredients – and the variety of recipes you can create with them. I came away from the walk excited to forage and cook up my own finds.
Freya Rix took part in an October Foraging Walk October in Norton near Faversham.
The walk is organised by Brogdale Collections and lead by local foraging expert Michael White from Rural Courses.
Brogdale will be organising further foraging walks in 2021. These make brilliant Christmas presents for anyone that loves walking, cooking, nature and being outdoors.
Keep an eye our courses page on the website for announcements.