Friday, 16 February 2018

Foraging Lessons - Part I

We had a very interesting speaker at one of our WI meetings last year. I get the impression that most of the women don't follow up on any of these talks, but I have gotten good value by doing so. The speaker was from Wild North Discovery and he talked about foraging for food. I took his card, meaning to look into it further.

I didn't think of it again much until casting about for Christmas gifts for Bill. He has most of what he wants and if he doesn't he just buys it. Unlike me, who makes lists and waits...

I bought a membership for each of us, knowing he wouldn't be keen on going by himself. And anyhow, I was really interested in it as well. We both enjoy foraging for berries and the like and Bill likes being outdoors, so I figured it was worth a shot.

We had our first meeting on Sunday. We gathered at St. Mary's Lighthouse on a day when pouring rain was predicted. He just told us to dress accordingly in waterproofs. Also to bring a notebook, a camera and a stick. 

About 15 people showed up and checked in, about an hour before low tide. We went clambering around on the slippery rocks, following him around. He showed us several kinds of seaweed: I remember bladder wrack and something like serrated wrack, kelp, lavar and perhaps sea lettuce and pepper dulse? Not sure how many of these I'd recognise again, probably the bladder wrack. 

He told us we wouldn't likely find razor shells or cockles on this rocky beach but showed us the shells and talked about how to cook them. He explained the difference between bi-valves and grazers. I was fascinated to learn about limpets. I always thought they were barnacles, but barnacles don't move and limpets do, to feed. He pointed out the bald places on the rocks near the clusters of limpets, indicating they had eaten the vegetation that covered most other rocks. Who knew limpets had teeth? I was just grateful they could cling to rocks so well; they helped me not slide around so much.

Those three bumps are limpets...and perhaps a bit of bird poo?

We got lucky with the weather, with just a light shower at one point. The sun was out for a good while at the beginning and the end, but for all that it was perishing cold! And guess who forgot to bring a hat (Bill - though he had a hood) and who didn't think of running gloves, only that dress gloves would hamper writing and photographing. I made do with stretching the long sleeves on my wool cardigan. I also discovered that a waterproof that covers ones rear end and has stuffed pockets makes navigating through slippery rocks and knee-high crevices very hard for this short person.

That straight edge on the right in the beige stuff has a tiny row of teeth!

Bruce is a mine of useful information. Whether I'd ever get Bill to eat 'squidgy stuff' (his words) like limpets or winkles, I'd bet not; I'm pretty sure we'll go foraging for some seaweed at some point, though! We were told not to gather on that day as there were so many of us we could wipe out the resources there and 'sustainability' is part of our lessons.

Our next gathering isn't until spring and it's somewhere in a forest. I'm really looking forward to it!

St Mary's Lighthouse, built 1898 on the site of an 11th century monastic chapel. 

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