Posted 15th Sep 2014
Foraging for ingredients can bring great enjoyment to life as Scotland's only full time, foraging tutor, Mark Williams, knows only too well. We sat down with Mark to uncover how he turned his passion in a career
How long have you been foraging for?
Since I was about 17. So that's, 25 years.
How did you get into foraging?
I was working split shifts in a restaurant on the Isle of Arran and we always had two or three hours to kill between lunch and dinner, so the chef and I started going out in the local woods to see if we could find anything tasty. We had one book 'A Passion For Mushrooms' by Antonio Carluccio, which had an excellent guide in the back. He wrote with such warmth and passion about all these seemingly exotic mushrooms that it really captured my imagination. I think if we'd only had a standard field guide I may have never got the bug but before I knew it I was known about the island as 'Mushroom Mark!'.
What impact has it had on your life?
'My name is Mark and I am a foraging addict'. When I am out and about, its fair to say I am pretty much constantly foraging. Sometimes its subconscious. I eat wild food every day and I learn something new about wild plants or fungi every day - there is no 'end point' to foraging.
How do you use the foods you forage?
Countless ways: wines, beers, cocktails, syrups, soups, stews, tarts, cakes, curries, stir-fries, roasts, haggis, puddings, sorbets, salads, fricassees, risottos, sauces...name any type of food, there will be a delicious wild ingredient that can improve it.
What is your favourite thing about foraging?
For all the joys of mindfully harvesting and preparing wild foods, my main joy is simpler than that. To taste small parts of a landscape while moving through it is a sensual experience that adds hugely to my enjoyment and appreciation of it. We use all our other senses – so why not taste?
Why did you start Galloway Wild Foods?
I had taken out occasional guided walks as a sideline for many years before realising that it might be possible to do it as a full-time job. People are eager to reconnect with wild food and I was struggling to deal with all the requests for foraging courses and keep up with my full-time job. So when a job didn't work out last summer, I decided to go for it.
I wondered whether becoming a full-time foraging tutor would diminish my enjoyment of it, but it hasn't. Several times a week, I feel privileged to share knowledge of the great stuff that hides in plain sight around us, to draw back the green veil of a hedgerow and help people to feel closer to their nourishment.
Sunday 21st September
There's a couple of places left on my gourmet foraging day in Galloway, but I'm starting a waiting list for more dates. It includes morning fungi session followed by a tasting menu with wild drinks in a beautiful spot, then a chance to walk it off as we explore the coast or hedgerows in the afternoon.
Saturday 18th October
I'm very excited about a fungi foray I've got scheduled in the Campsie Fells near Glasgow. The route takes in loads of important edible species – great for learning – plus there is a cool wee bothy to cook our finds in after. All my walks include foraged nibbles, drinks and a wild cook-in after. I think this is important to bring all we have encountered together and taste our day.
You can also book me for private tuition or events for your family, friends, group, hen do or business. I can do anything from a short walk to a full gourmet experience with wild food tasting menu and foraged cocktails.
You can read more about all of these, and lots more events by going to the foraging events page on Mark's website: http://www.gallowaywildfoods.com/?page_id=352.
www.gallowaywildfoods.com contains lots of free foraging information, including a wild food guide with tips for both beginners and improvers.
Mark, who is a fully insured foraging tutor, regularly shares updates and information on what's in season, how to find it and what to do with it on Facebook and Twitter and his monthly foraging e-newsletter.
To find out more about foraging in Scotland see our feature Natures menu.
by Lauren Morton
Images courtesy of © Galloway Wild Foods