FORGET fighting your way through the supermarket aisles or surfing the web for your food shopping, the greenest consumers are now turning to wild food.
Foraging for your supper may seem extreme, but growing numbers are bramble picking and chestnut hunting this autumn.
Among them is Lucinda Antal, Operations Manager of the National Wildflower Centre.
“I’ve seen more people than ever out bramble picking and hunting for sweet chestnuts this year,” says Lucinda, from Woolton, who is organising the centre’s family wild food supper in November.
“There’s a real interest in wild food at the moment. I’ve been out bramble picking and foraging for windfalls for the event – we’ll be having blackberry and apple crumble.
“There’s also wonderful rosehips and black elderberries around at the moment.
“We’ll also be having oyster mushrooms – although you need to be very careful. Like any mushrooms or anything unfamiliar, you need to go with an expert.”
You need to take everything home and give it a good wash – there can be pollution and general grime by the roadsides, so no nibbling as you go.
It’s also worth taking good gloves – brambles and the sweet chestnut cases can be prickly. But there are rich pickings to be had – at this time of year Merseyside is a veritable food hall of natural produce.
“There are apples all around,” explains Lucinda. “A lot of the ancient orchards are still here, but they’ve been built around. There are some lovely apple trees on Menlove Avenue – we’ve had some really tasty windfalls from them.”
Apart from a few berries, nettles and some dandelions, the only food most of us recognise is the kind we buy from the supermarket.
It’s a sad reality, given that man is, technically, a born forager.
“In a city, you can usually find a salad’s worth of food a day – horseradish, wild rocket and dandelion are generally easy to find,” says Miles Irving, author of The Forager Handbook: A Guide to the Edible Plants of Britain.
We spent millennia finding – and eating – the very best plants the world had to offer, not stuffing themselves full of caramel lattes and cranberry muffins.
There are health benefits touted in eating a variety of foods, and hunter-gatherers, who would use as many as 100 plant foods in the course of a year, seemed to understand this better than our obese-ridden lot have done. Today we use less than 20 plant foods in a year, with most of those foods consisting of starch.