Fancy a foraging adventure?
How about exploring the backcountry beauty and bounty of Wales while gathering food that’s fresh, tasty, local and more importantly free?
It seems everyone is planning a foraging outing nowadays and who knew that wild food foraging had such a large and loyal following in Wales? We are all hunter-gatherers at heart and if you’ve ever popped a wild raspberry or blueberry into your mouth or swiped a McIntosh apple from Neighbour Brown’s conveniently overhanging branch, you’re a forager, too. And wild food foraging has always been a part of life in Wales, especially in rural areas where farmers still chew thirst-quenching sorrel leaves, and ancient Welsh grandmothers gather stinging nettles to add to a traditional Welsh broth. Blackberrying, mushroom picking (VERY popular), nut and black haw gathering are everyday pursuits, with many taking their foraging fanaticism a step further, raiding the Welsh outdoor pantry for more exotic flavours including wild sorrel, bramble tips and edible seaweed.
A Closeted Forager
Wales has a landscape perfect for bushcraft and foraging. Full disclosure: I am a closeted forager. For a very long time I have secretly wanted to forage my meal and have secretly discussed developing organized foraging events, picking and pulling the produce from the back fields and forests of Southwestern Ontario. On our recent visit to Wales, I was thrilled to discover Llangoed Hall’s mission to secure a sustainable future of high-quality produce through sourcing or growing their food and ingredients from within a 5-mile radius of the property. In the winter, they grow 45% of their vegetables, soft fruits and herbs and in summer maintain 95% sustainability. I am putting my foraging closeted self in the capable hands of Llangoed Hall’s Head Chef, Nick Brodie, who has a real passion for the outdoors and what it offers, whether it be hunting or foraging. Chef forages many of the ingredients in his imaginative yet sensible food from his burgeoning kitchen garden, harvesting his foraged ingredients when they bloom and adapting his beautifully presented seasonal dishes accordingly. Brodie humbly boasts and flashes a smile: “The Hotel sits on 17 acres of land so sustaining our daily output is certainly achievable. I love going into the greenhouses or foraging the vegetable beds for daily inspiration. It makes menu planning easy and keeps you bang on season with our dishes. Our smokehouse adds an extra dimension to what we do. We even use our chickens, ducks, and quails for the eggs we serve.”
Feeling a Foraging Thrill
To forage further afield would mean that we would have to don our wellies and rain jackets and head out into the bluster and on again, off again rain of the Welsh countryside. I am completely content to wander the Hotels’ kitchen garden and spend the late afternoon foraging bits and bites for the hotel’s dinner tonight: squash, mushrooms, nasturtiums, eggs, pine, artichokes, honey, eggs, fruit, nuts, vegetables and potatoes. I am feeling a foraging thrill, helping sustain the kitchen’s use of food by the gardening team who immediately impress with their extensive knowledge and unusual flora facts from foraged products with potentially medicinal, culinary, and household uses. We start with the raised beds, pulling onions and squash before moving over to the hen houses to mingle with their chirping chickens, ducks, and quails, gathering eggs for dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast.
There will be a final forage just before service with breathless chefs, running in the garden with a flashlight for that extra bit of herb, nasturtium or an edible flower or cutting needed to complete a dish. Tonight we savour and salivate over Chef Brodie’s 11-course Vegetarian Degustation menu: “fresh from the garden to the plate in 2 minutes.”
A closeted forager no more.
Certain meals and accommodation for followsummer were sponsored by Llangoed Hall. Many thanks to Calum Milne, Chef Nick Brodie and staff at Llangoed Hall for giving followsummer such a warm, Welsh welcome.