Edible Cambium ‘Bast ‘ finding , harvesting and use

I’m not sure how common this is in the uk but it’s something I feel is massively underused and is in danger of being lost from our history completely ,
Cambium or ‘bast ‘ is the growing tissue of a tree which adds new growth to the circumference of a tree it contains carbs in the form of sugars ,
I find it hard to group cambium to a food group … It can be a sweet but also a steamed or roasted like veg or dried and pounded into flour in any instance it is a massive wild resource.
I have no doubt at all that our ancestors would of used this to its full potential , although I have found no standing reference to it within uk history but you don’t have to look far to find massive references to its importance to hunter gatherer communities in fact in communities in America were still harvesting and processing well into the 1900s and was such an important part of their diet that their name in the Mohawk indian language means “tree eaters and cambium collection was a big and important part of the food year it is this that concretes my belief that hunter gatherer communities in the uk would have taken part in similar exercises .

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Hemlock water dropwort . Dead mans smile

Horse bane , dead mans fingers

(Oenanthe crocata)

One of the things I’ve noticed I’m missing from my writing is probably the most important thing to learn with any wild food and foraging “what not to eat ” and the nastys that hide amongst our favourite wild edibles .
The first dangerous plant that I ever learnt was hemlock water drop wort and that not because it is one of the most poisonous plants around or that after eating you will have about three hours before you meet your maker but because it is so easy to get it mixed up with some of the most favoured edible plants we look for as foragers ( Alexander’s , wild parsnip ,celery ) .
To be fair it is generally mistaken for celery with the stems and leaves and wild parsnip with the roots more than any other similar plant .
Water drop wort is a member of a group of plants called Apiaceae or Umbelliferae most commonly known as the carrot family .
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The fairy flower

Hyacinthoides non-scripta, bluebell

It’s that exciting time of the year for any forager when all of the spring greens are beginning to show and probably the most commonly collected for even the beginner the wild ramson
( wild garlic Allium ursinum ) but with this comes a hazard which is a common sight in the countryside of most of the uk ,the bluebell.
Funnily enough I feel it’s one of the prettiest flowers we have and when sitting in the woodland which is carpeted with bluebells you can’t help but to be lifted by it’s truly majestic sight .
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My brush with the invasive species topic

I was in a discussion recently which I found really interesting even if I was slightly out of my depth knowledge wise ,
We were discussing the impact on our countryside by invasive plant species now I was undoubtedly the least intelligent of the group but found my views being adopted over some of the more educated members ,
I have a mixed opinion on the topic being a conservationist and a forager some of the plants being discussed cause a conflict within me ,

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Foraging pine nuts……. am I nuts ??

I’ve collected pine cones for the nuts more and more as I’ve realised how versatile the nuts are , they first took my liking as a roasted crunch to top of salads and this quickly moved on to adding them to many more of my recipes.
As far as I’m aware and this is not bomb prof so research on your tree needs to be done prior to harvesting any cones is that there is no poisonous pine nut and they are all indeed edible and it’s the individual tree that determines wether or not it will and this is mostly about size and types of shell that defines if they are worth harvesting .

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Why forage ?? My answer

Whilst out today sporting my basket and several bags of mixed wild foods I attracted the normal funny passing looks and the odd smile , and of course the normal interested party who pluck up the courage to approach me with conversation which always amuses me as I probably would run a mile with the normal questions of “what you doing ?” “What you got there ?”and the most annoying of all “is it safe to eat that ?” But today I was asked a great question by a young couple and they then stuck around and walked for a while whilst I blurted out a response , ” so why do you forage ” My normal answer used to be “

if you have to ask you won’t understand the answer “ Continue reading

Sakura , A gift from a fellow forager

One of my favourite aspects of foraging is preserving and different methods of preserving wild foods without the use of modern day amenities such as fridges and freezers ,
Today I was lucky enough to be invited out for a forage with some students from my local university , I had a really good time and enjoyed sharing some of my wild food experiences with them and I turn theirs with me .
It was obvious that the group was very knowledgable and I was quite humbled that I was asked to take them out it was a mixed group and one member in particular ‘Cho, I found fascinating as is with a lot of people who come from different parts of the world they seem to see so much more than us locals and this was once again true of her ,

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Watercress or not watercress that is the question ??

A few weeks ago I met up with a fellow wild food collector and he took me on a walk to some of his favourite spots ,the day consisted of sharing our mixed knowledge as he is schooled in the medicinal uses of plants something I have a great thirst to learn and later in the day we meet with a small group of students he was taking on a foraging walk ,
During the walk he asked if there was anything in particular anyone wanted to ask / learn and one of the things was a question about water cress and safe collection .

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My apple cider vinegar , the marriage of alcohol and time,

There are two reasons why vinegar is going to be a process that I intend to embrace this year , firstly is that it makes great use of a waste product when making cider vinegar I use the cores and peel of the apples that are left over from my preserve making ,
The second is I’m learning fast how utterly fantastic a simple salad can be made with a drizzle of flavoured vinegar

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Galium aparine, cleavers

Galium aparine

Cleavers , bobby buttons , sticky weed ,goose grass , and on and on …………

Well it may not win any awards for being the most interesting plant ever but if I’m honest it was probably my favourite childhood plant we called it “sticky willy” and many long walks home were made such fun by covering friends with as much as we could find little did we know that we were doing exactly as the plant wanted and transporting the seeds as nature intended .

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