A Guide to Wild Winter Greens

Winter can be tough on foragers, especially those far from the coast who rely on field and forest.  Mushrooms, so enthusiastically pushing through the leaf litter a few weeks ago, have mostly retreated into the dirt.  The generous hedgerows have become rather miserly, offering up a few scant rose hips and the occasional sour crab-apple. …

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Flavours of the Forest

The flavour of dried ceps and other boletes is altogether different to the fresh mushrooms. Deep and dusky, it speaks of forests and earth, of leaf litter and moss. To me, it is one of those special ingredients, along with things like butter or vinegar, that can transform a dish from the mundane to the magnificent.

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Wild Washing

Our house, being a random and teetering pile of half-completed refurbishments and ancient farm, has drainage that can only be described as unpredictable. Like most houses in the rural areas of France, we have a septic tank rather than mains drainage. When we moved here, we had to replace the old septic tank to be in…

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Winter Chanterelle Tagliatelle

It is very cold, and mist curls through the bronzing leaves of the forest canopy, turning trees into hulking shadows, half-hidden keepers of old secrets.  The feeling in my fingers is gone.  Dewdrops collect in my beard and eyebrows, and I cannot feel my nose.  I am shivering, and somewhat lost, but I do not…

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How to Make Quince Cheese

The term ‘foraging’ can be a loose one.  The Oxford English Dictionary says “(of a person or animal) search widely for food or provisions.”  But you needn’t hike for miles in the wilderness in search of your ingredients.  That wide search can begin on your doorstep; in your own garden, in parks, on waste ground,…

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The Hedgerow in Autumn

The greens of summer fade toward the golds and rusts of autumn. This morning is a dim one, with thin mist curling across the meadows. The sun breaks the horizon. The mist takes on colours, hazing pink and orange as its fingers reach across the land. More rain is promised. Grey clouds hang fat and…

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An Autumn Lunch

After a long hot summer here in France, autumn has finally arrived. The sun has calmed its fury, and retired behind the clouds. Rain is forecast and will be relief to the wildlife and the farm animals alike. Three young roe deer flit daily across the fields behind the house, buzzards and kites fill the…

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Capturing a Taste of the Wild

An early lesson I learned when I began foraging was this: there is a difference between “you can eat it” and “you should eat it”. Depending on your tolerance for bitterness, hairiness, or astringency, there are some wild foods that are technically edible but also technically horrible. Conversely there are some incredible and unique ingredients…

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Chicken of the Woods

Chicken-of-the-woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) is a startling fungus. Often bright yellow, and rather alien in appearance, it grows mostly on the trunks of oak trees, though sometimes on poplar or yew. It is a parasitic fungus, and eventually causes the rot and death of its host. It is fairly easy to identify. Young specimens are bright to pale…

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The Apocalypse Pantry

It’s not the end of the world.  As I write this, I am listening to the radio, where sombre voices are speaking of madmen rattling their swords, about missiles, about poisoned eggs, about droughts, floods, forest fires.  Stay indoors.  Cover the windows, cover your eyes.  Be afraid. And I am afraid. Yet, outside the open door,…

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