Wild food foraging is defined as the search for wild, edible food and resources. It dates back to the beginnings of civilisation, and there are still small communities around the world that rely on foraged food as their only source of nourishment. I am fascinated by foraging and find its process to be both healing and humbling, an experience of truly connecting with nature.
At Ewhurst Park, I am fortunate to learn more about the processes of foraging and to invite interesting people to join me as we hunt for edible treasures on the Estate. On our outings around the park, we have managed to find birch sap, pine needles, bilberries, nordic red algae and cloudberries to name a few, all of which are edible and have unique and delicious flavours.
Of course, I have not been solely self-taught on this endeavour, and I have to say a huge thank you to the experts who have shared their knowledge with me. Miles Irving, an international wild food expert and pioneer for the Wild Food Renaissance visited Ewhurst recently and whilst here, Miles taught us about birch tapping.
Birch tapping is the process of extracting sap from the tree. Much like maple trees, by drilling a whole into the side of a birch tree you can release an edible liquid that can be stored and consumed. The tapping season kicks off in Spring just before the trees begin to sprout buds. Miles ran a birch tapping course with visitors at Ewhurst Park, guiding us expertly through the process. Birch sap or birch water is a refined taste and can be drunk ‘neat’ as a tonic or converted into a birch wine!
Helen Browning also joined us. Helen is an organic farmer and Chief Executive of the Soil Association. She is currently undertaking agroforestry, which is the process of growing both trees and horticultural crops on the same piece of land, on her own farm and was able to share some fantastic advice. We discussed that the UK faces a shortage of skilled growers and how we will need to rely more on homegrown food rather than imported goods in the years to come.
Seen left to right: Tamara and Iain Tollhurst, Rhys Jansen, James Wallace, Mandy Lieu and Helen Browning
I hope in the future I will continue to invite and host experts to Ewhurst Park. I thoroughly enjoy getting to know more people in the rewilding and regenerative farming community. The journey that I, and Ewhurst Park, are on cannot be done alone, and as much as I have already learned there is still much more to discover.