Posted 15th Sep 2014
In Scotland, August marks the start of autumn and we found out how the Scottish landscape is an untapped gem for foraging enthusiasts
An increasing number of top chefs are becoming aware of the wealth of free, nutritional foods that Scotland has to offer. Unique flavours are beginning to appear on menus in Scottish restaurants which, Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods points out, has a trickle down effect. Those specially selected ingredients are now finding their way into our homes and the tasty, seasonal foraged finds discovered in Scotland's hedgerows and forests are offering a flavour-sensation that, before the introduction of processed food, would have been key to our diet.
Now that Scotland is firmly in autumn, which happens at the beginning of August for Scottish foragers, mushrooms and berries are at the top of Mark's list as he searches in the treasure trove that is Galloway, Scotland. With Scotland being a hub for habitats filled with a glorious supply of fruits for foraging enthusiasts, you are likely to find excellent fungi in the North and West of Scotland, while the coast boasts a vibrant array of delicious things to enjoy. In the south the hedgerows are rich in fruit and spring plants are on hand to fill your baskets, backpacks and even pockets on a whim.
The exhilarating rush of uncovering something you were not expecting or the thrill of producing a home cooked meal from your own hard work is a way of connecting to nature, something Mark admits, is not achievable by simply going to the supermarket. 'Foraging connects us to our food in a way that nothing else can. To go out and find, identify and mindfully harvest, process and eat wild ingredients is profoundly connecting with the chain of life.'
The act of foraging offers a special connection between man and nature, a bond if you will, and in Scotland during autumn the myriad of desirable foods beneath your feet means it's the perfect time to venture into Scotland's forests. Scotland's signature wild mushroom, the chenterelle grows in large quantities in most woodlands in Scotland, especially towards the North, while those searching for other popular mushrooms such as porcini will be happy to discover them hiding in plain sight at this time of year. A berry or two, such as blackberries and raspberries will also be around for the eager forager, though the keener eye will be able to spot elderberries, blaeberries and wild cranberries.
Mark tells us, 'Switched on foragers look forward to something new coming into season nearly every week and feel a little sad as something drops of the menu'. To get the most out of found foods, create simple dishes that will ignite the pure flavour of the plants and make fungi come to life before trying more complicated dishes.
As the best things in life are free, wild foods in Scotland are thriving and plentiful, ready to be lovingly hand-picked and incorporated into a succulent pie, blended to make a delicious drink, or washed and eaten as an afternoon snack. Untapped super foods, such as seaweed, require little effort and complement many dishes, providing better nutrition, flavour and delight as you sit down to a meal made from nature's larder.
To find out more about Mark, including his contact details and upcoming forgaging events see our interview with him here. Please note that Mark does not sell any wild ingredients.
By Lauren Morton
Images courtesy of © Galloway Fine Foods