Sunday, 14 September 2014

Food for free

This article in the Guardian is stupid.

Around where I currently live, the people are either too rich to even consider picking food for themselves (now known popularly as "foraging"), or they are suspicious of anything that doesn't come shrink wrapped from the supermarket.

Well, my approach to food is that a) I really enjoy eating it and b) I want to eat good food as cheaply as possible. So my view is that if I want pizza, I'll buy some flour from Tesco, make a whole stack of bases to freeze for later use and then greatly enjoy eating one once a week with some delicious toppings (my favourite being onions, gorgonzola and mozzarella). The cost is cheaper and the quality better than any ready made junk.

But what I really like doing is finding food for free.

So far this year I have found (roughly in order):

Wild garlic: smells fantastic in spring woodland. Can be eaten raw (quite strong), but best made into some kind of soup where the flavour is really quite delicate.

Dandelions: tea.

Elderflowers: delicious elderflower cordial.

Raspberries: pretty self explanatory I would have thought.

Bilberries: basically a small, wild blueberry that grows in abundance on northern moorlands. Quite labour intensive to pick but delicious.

Plums: yummy.

Apples: can be used for all kinds of things, of course. Eating, jam, crumble, stewing, cider (haven't tried that last one).

Blackberries: again, quite self explanatory. Can be munched while walking along (so many this year), or put into a crumble (delicious..).

Sloes: real bumper crop this year. Picked a carrier bag full. Can be made into jam, or as I have done, turned into (three litres) of sloe gin. It's going to be a good winter..

Chicken of the woods mushroom: large, bright yellow mushroom. Tastes and smells like chicken, but unfortunately the risotto I made with them couldn't quite get rid of the slightly chalky texture. There are probably better recipes for them..

Puffball mushrooms: lovely soft and spongy texture, good with a bit of garlic and oil with pasta.

Parasol mushrooms: found a whole bag full of these. Added some to pasta, and some are currently drying.

Hazelnuts: don't let the squirrels have all the fun! A huge crop this year.

Chestnuts: just coming out now, but I'm sure it's going to be a huge crop. Great either roasted or made into a paste for baking with.

Apple and blackberry crumble. Cost: a bit of flour, butter and sugar.

So yeah. Free food. There's really quite a lot of it out there. And despite what that ridiculous article says, there's more than enough for everybody (animals included), because while there may be some "professional" pickers who clean places out, I think that's fairly rare, and most of the time it's just people like me who pick enough stuff for a meal or two.

But often, it seems that if I didn't pick it, the food would go to waste: People actually seem suspicious of food that they don't buy in a shop; People who have apple trees in their garden buy apples; And when I took a bowl full of blackberries to work one time, people wouldn't eat them.

Their loss, is all I can say.

And while that Guardian article likes to condescend people who "forage" for food as some kind of "getting back to nature" type, well yes, there is a part of that. But there is also partly some pride in walking down a footpath somewhere and seeing not just a nice view but also the produce of a natural supermarket. I like knowing that I have the skill to identify things that are edible (and inedible). In such an infantilised world it's very satisfying.

Parasol mushroom. Found a lot of these..
Hazelnuts. Get a hammer..