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Foraging Foodies

PUBLISHED: 09:00 27 June 2014

Wild garlic is on any Fine Dining menu worth its salt

Wild garlic is on any Fine Dining menu worth its salt

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Foraging has become a byword for foodie chic and thanks to a new mobile Foraging app - created by a Devon chef - you no longer need to know your pennyworts from your periwinkles. Chrissy Harris takes to the hedgerows

Chef David Beazley teaches foraging in Devon's HedgerowsChef David Beazley teaches foraging in Devon's Hedgerows

Foraging for food using apps and e-books. What would our ancestors have made of it all? But modern technology is now being used to help make this ancient practice even more accessible to the masses.

Why, even a three-year-old can check her pennywort against her sorrel when gathering leaves for a hedgerow salad. My children, Alice and her brother Jake, six, recently joined foraging expert and chef David Beazley for a hunter/gatherer session near Ashburton.

David has worked with Ashburton Cookery School to produce an app called the Forager’s Apprentice, which lets beginners identify and collect common wild foods and cook them at home.

David, who regularly takes groups of trainee chefs out to source their ingredients in the great outdoors, has also produced a simple e-book to help people make a free lunch from wild foods.

You can flavour your custards with the sweet taste of ElderflowersYou can flavour your custards with the sweet taste of Elderflowers

“You can actually build up a supermarket by learning where ingredients are at what time of year,” he says. “You can use the app to download your ‘hotspots’ so you know where to go back to next year to find your sorrel or wild garlic.”

David says Devon is rich with wild produce – you’ve just got to know when and where to look.

“I’ve spent 30 years building up my knowledge. It’s not by luck that I stumble across these ingredients. But by using something like the app or e-book, anyone can get started.”

For their first foraging experience, my children were lucky enough to have a walking, talking ‘app’ to hand.

The Forager’s Apprentice

The Forager’s Apprentice app was put together by David Beazley and experts at Ashburton Cookery School.

It’s a beginner’s guide and shows the user what’s in season and when. You can save and make notes at your locations and see previous hotspots.

There are also recipes that put the ingredients found to their best use.

To find out more or to download the app, visit foragersapp.com

The Forager’s Apprentice e-book is also available to download.

The book, written by David, helps the user learn, identify and cook over 50 common British wild foods.

You can view photographs of each ingredient and the finished dish.

David showed Jake and Alice exactly where to look for the ingredients we needed for a perfect early summer Devon hedgerow salad.

Our first stop was by the side of the road in a country lane in the wilds of Ashburton.

“Right,” says David. “Here are your baskets. Now, we’re looking for this small, round-shaped leaf called pennywort.”

And they were off. Baskets were soon lined with small, round leaves (and a few unidentified specimens).

We also stumbled across a gruesome looking fungus which David told us was called Jew’s ear and apparently edible.

“Urgh! I don’t want that in my basket,” says Jake, who usually delights in discovering slimy looking objects.

We move on to a spot beside a disused railway that is carpeted with pungent fresh garlic leaves.

The kids waste no time crouching down and grabbing huge handfuls. David and I are more precise, collecting the freshest, greenest looking examples.

“Garlic leaves have a lovely, subtle flavour which works really well in a salad,” says David. “The thing about foraging though is that you’re not going to find all the ingredients you want for a meal in one spot. You can’t go with a shopping list.

“You’ll find one or two things here and there that you can add to your dishes.

“It’s very satisfying to find things that you wouldn’t be able to buy in a shop at certain times of the year.”

With that, we move on to our final destination to find a couple of dandelion leaves and sorrel.

“Try a bit of sorrel,” says David. “And stick with it.” The kids recoil in horror but I munch away on a freshly picked leaf and it tastes delicious. Full of zingy citrus flavour.

We also manage to snip some chives, which, to the untrained eye, look exactly like a bunch of grass by the hedgerow.

Our baskets are now full. Alice seems to have a lot of actual grass in hers but she’s perfectly happy with her morning’s work.

Jake is also delighted with his haul. “I love this day!” he tells us.

Foraging is certainly a brilliant family-friendly activity that can be done as part of a stroll in the Devon countryside.

“I really love the solitude of it as well,” says David.

And with that, I take my young foragers away to prep our tea.

A Devon Monthly Foraging Calendar

Here’s a guide to somethe wild foods you can find between March and October:

March: clams, cockles, crab, mussels, razor calms, scallops. Alexander, chive, wild garlic, purslane, rock samphire, seabeet, sorrel, violet, watercress. Jew’s ear and St George mushrooms

April: clams, cockles, crab, mussels, razor calms, scallops. Alexander, wild garlic, laver, purslane, rock samphire, seabeet, sorrel, watercress. Jew’s ear, St George and morel mushrooms.

May: Clams, cockles, crab and scallops. Wild garlic, laver, purslane, rock samphire, seabeet, sorrel, watercress. Cauliflower, morel, St George and chanterelle mushrooms.

June: clams, cockles, crab, scallop. Laver, purslane, rock samphire, seabeet, sorrel, watercress. Boletus, cauliflower, morel and hedgehog mushrooms.

July: clam, cockles, crab, prawns, scallops. Laver, marsh samphire, purslane, rock samphire, seabeet, sorrel, watercress. Boletus, cauliflower, chanterelle, horse, miller, morel mushrooms. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries

Aug: clams, cockels, crab, prawns and scallops. Laver, marsh samphire, purslane, rock samphire, seabeet and sorrel. Boletus, cauliflower, chanterelle, horse and miller mushrooms. Apples, blackberries, blueberries, damson, raspberries, starawberries.

September: clam, cockles, crab, prawns, scallops, mussels, razor clams. Laver, purslane, rock samphire, seabeet, sorrel, watercress. Boletus, cauliflower, chanterelle, horse, miller, parasol mushrooms. Apples, blackberries, damsons, hazelnuts, raspberries, walnuts.

Oct: clam, cockles, crab, prawns, scallops, mussels, razor clams. Purslane, rock samphire, seabeet, sorrel, watercress. Boletus, chanterelle, hedgehog, miller, parasol mushrooms. Apples, blackberries, damsons, hazelnuts, raspberries, rowan, sloe, walnuts.

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