Muddy Tries: Food foraging and Wine day
I have discovered a new passion. Foraging. And no, I’m not referring to my rummaging around the back of the kitchen cupboards for some out-of-date pistachios to accompany an early evening G & T. I’m talking wild foraging – the search for foliage, flowers, fruit and fungi out there in its natural habitat. I know, it comes as even more of a surprise to me than you. I’m the person who made their seven-year-old son wear marigolds to clear up the apples that had fallen on the orchard floor surrounding our house because, you know, they were a *tad* mouldy.
But when I was invited to try a taster of the Food and Wine Gift Experience Days put on by Albany Events I had so much fun I just had to bash out a quick post to tell you about it. The day begins, as all good days do, with cake. In a pub. The Green Cross Inn, in Goudhurst to be precise. There I met wild foraging expert Michael White, the founder of Rural Courses, a series of workshops designed to introduce the rest of us folk to good old school country activities. I also met Victoria who oversees the second part of the day – a guided walk around the Hush Heath vineyards and a tutored wine tasting. Yes, you got me. This was the part of the day that I initially signed up for!
I soon discovered, to my great surprise, that I very much enjoyed the foraging element of the day too. Michael’s enthusiasm for the whole self-sufficient lifestyle was infectious accompanied with a decent down-to-earth sense of humour. He even once walked from St.David’s, in Wales, back home to Kent (a journey of well over 300miles) living solely on wild foraged food just to prove that living off the land was possible. And sure enough before we even left the pub carpark he’d found some hairy bittercress – a relative of water cress that would be a perfect accompaniment to salmon. Apparently a lot of these wild salad leaves have a much stronger taste so perfect for anyone that has knackered their tastebuds over the years partying hard or drinking too much coffee. I swear he looked at me when it said this *humph*.
Obviously what you find on these walks depends on what time of year you go (edible herbs in spring and edible fungi, roots, fruit and berries in autumn, since you’re asking). Michael is a man who clearly loves to cook so he translates everything you find into a gastronomic vision – I actually salivated at the thought of eating nettles (once steamed and fried with garlic and butter) in soup or as a pesto sauce.
Luckily for me the next bit of the day involved a trip back to the pub for a two-course lunch which incorporates foraged foods. It was a well-deserved break after our walk (tours can be tailored to suit the group’s level of fitness) and perfect for lining my stomach before the tour of the Hush Heath vineyards and wine tasting session on their beautiful winery terrace. Whoop Whoop – here I come!
I managed to learn quite a lot about wine making – and boy do they look after *every* individual grape here – before skipping into the tasting session. Like, the fact that the strip of soil that runs along the south east of the UK is the same one that dips under the Paris Basin and pops up in Champagne and Chabolis (for the fact fans).
When I returned home later that day, taking with me my basket of foraged goodies, I felt strangely exhilarated. Then it hit me – I know exactly why I like this wild larder lark so much. It’s the shopper in me! Seasoning that evening’s grilled chicken with wild garlic I got the same buzz I experienced the day before when snapping up a new pair of Rag & Bone skinny jeans half price on net-a-porter. Because sometimes I like to try something a bit new but most importantly – I love a bargain! Don’t you?
Speaking of which, at £90, this crammed-full-of-activity day experience is good value for money. That covers all the day’s refreshments, including the two-course lunch and both Food and Wine elements of the course. As I get older my friends and family tend to club together to give each other experiences rather than things on our birthdays – and this is one I’m definitely going to recommend.
Day experience dates: Sat 16 Apr, Sat 30 Apr, Sat 10 Sept and Sat 22 Oct 2016, albanyevents.co.uk