One of the greatest pleasures of camping, surfing and living free on your holibobs by the coast is finding the time to seek out good food. Buying local produce from farm shops, trying out new restaurants or searching for the finest fish and chips to eat on the seafront are fantastic, simple pleasures that should never be underestimated. But what about finding the ultimate in local produce? How about foraging for your holiday grub?
Done properly, foraging for your supper can be a really rewarding way to spend the day. Even if it’s picking blackberries out of the hedgerows or picking sloes to put in your gin, it’s fun to poke about in the hedgerows and on the seashore for edible goodies, especially if you get to have a feast afterwards! And, as if you needed any more reason to get out there with your prawn net, it’s a great way to get some exercise at the same time. Kids love it too.
So, to add another dimension to your summer, here’s the Saltrock guide to safe and easy seaside foraging this summer!
Wherever you go in the UK you’ll find an expert to take you out on a day’s foraging. From the wilds of West Wales to Cornwall, Devon and the South Coast, foraging courses are available for anyone who wants to get started. And many of them are within easy reach of our beach stores. So there’s no excuse!
If you are unsure about any aspect of foraging then going on a course is the only sensible way to do it. A professional forager will be able to show you all the good stuff as well as help you find the bad stuff too. Trust them and they will be able to take you on a magical eating journey along the seashore. In the South West our preferred ‘go to’ forager is Emma Gunn. Find her at www.nevermindtheburdocks.co.uk. You can also find foragers all over the UK at The Association of Foragers http://www.foragers-association.org.uk/.
The next best thing to having your own expert on hand is to get a really good identification guide. Actually, get two. Why? Because it means you’ll be able to double cross reference anything you find and make sure that it is 100% safe to eat. That’s the single most important message when it comes to foraging: make sure you are absolutely certain it is edible before you put it anywhere near your mouth!
Also, make sure you know the law. If on private land you’ll need to seek out permission from the landowner. Your field guide will tell you about the law and foraging. One of the very best field guides is Food For Free by Richard Mabey. Read more here: http://richardmabey.co.uk/food-for-free/
Be curious. The more you ask questions, the more you’ll learn. It’s quite simple. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and if you seek it out you’ll become more knowledgeable yourself. So ask your parents, neighbours, grandparents and anyone who might know about wild food. You’ll be surprised how much there is to learn and how much the older generations know about it and how much they will love to share that knowledge. Don’t forget that our grandparents may have foraged themselves!
Somethings are easy to identify, like mussels or certain types of seaweeds. While you may not fancy nibbling on seaweed it is actually a really great place to start seaside foraging because none of it is poisonous. Some seaweeds taste better than others and some need drying or preparing but none of them will kill you!!! So, try nibbling on a little bit of dulse seaweed and, if you like it, try some others. Sugar kelp, when dried, makes great crisps, spaghetti weed, when marinated in lemon and chilli, can be eaten as a vegetable, carrageen moss can be used to thicken vegan blancmange and laver can be used to make laver bread, a Welsh breakfast speciality! And any decent foraging book will show you how to do all those things and more!
Kids love rock pooling. So why not combine the two and see what you can find to eat. To catch shrimps and prawns (and other stuff) you’ll need a good sturdy net and a bucket to keep them in. At certain beaches prawns hide in seaweed in rockpools and can be caught by cupping the weed in a net and shaking them out. You’ll be surprised how big they get sometimes. Even if you don’t intend to eat them it’s a lot of fun trying. Big crabs and sometimes lobsters can also be found on some beaches. Just make sure you read your field guide and don’t ever take anything that is pregnant or undersized.
When we say ‘be brave’ we don’t mean ‘be stupid’. So the normal rules always apply to any kind of foraging: make sure you are 100% sure it’s edible before eating it. Seems sensible, right? But that doesn’t mean you can’t be brave. Try things (but only when you are 100% sure it’s OK) you might not otherwise eat. How about trying a limpet? Or scrabbling around in the mud for a cockle or two? It’s fun. And you just might like it!!
Lots of edible plants live on the seashore. Lots of them are easy to identify too, like samphire and sea beet. Samphire can be found on mud flats and river estuaries and tastes amazing. But don’t forget to cut it and leave the roots – it’s the same with seaweed – so that the plant can grow again. Sea beet (it’s also known as sea spinach) grows above the high tide line and is the grandfather of all beets and spinach. Its waxy leaves make it easy to spot, but check your field guide first before you pick it. You might even try rock samphire too – it grows on cliffs in Devon and Cornwall - but some people aren’t mad about its soapy taste! As usual, use your field guide and if you aren’t sure, don’t bother.
If you are going out on your own (without an expert guide) learn one plant at a time so that you never mistake it for anything else or pick anything you don’t want. Some plants have poisonous doppelgangers so it’s vital to get each one right before moving on to the next one. The same applies to mushrooms or shellfish and seafood. Only take it if you are 100% sure. If in doubt, leave it out!
Martin Dorey is a surfer, cook and camper van traveller. He was the presenter of a BBC2 TV show called One Man and his Campervan and has written 3 books on the subject of four wheeled living and two ringed cooking. He is currently writing and researching a book about the UK’s best campervan journeys, Take the Slow Road.
So now you're all clued up on how to go Seaside Foraging safely, it's time to head to a Saltrock store and pick up some Foraging essentials! Whether they are aqua shoes by Two Bare Feet to protect yourself from the sharp rocks, or it's t-shirts for all the family, we've got it covered! Find your nearest store here!