There are two types of foraging. The dictionary definition infers some manner of searching for, or vegetarian stalking of, foodstuffs. The epitomy of this is mushroom picking, which normally requires a silent hunt for an enigmatic quarry. That’s the most exciting and frustrating type.
The other kind of foraging is really more like harvesting, whereby the forager is returning to a known resource at regular intervals. The ‘thrill of the chase’ is over, superseded by warm, satisfying familiarity – and a full belly!
As the wild food hunter gains knowledge and experience of their locality, they will inevitably start to do more type 2 harvesting than type 1 foraging. Though i love returning to my favourite locations each year as they give up their bounty, i still get most pleasure from visiting new areas to see what goodies they are hiding. The odd fruitless foray only adds to the pleasure of discovering a rich new seam of ceps, or a previously unfound delicacy.
I always have a ‘most wanted’ list in my head of all the wild foods I am still to track down. Truffles, morels and horseradish are currently top of my hit-list, and though there is a high probability that i will never find them in Galloway, I will never stop searching!
The biggest thrill with any wildfood is normally the first time you find, identify and scoff it. I still vividly remember my first chanterelle patch. I had been hesitantly and naively wondering whether every vaguely orange fungi i came across was the legendary girolle, when i rounded a small beech tree near Whiting Bay on Arran and was dazzled by a carpet of gold the size of a snooker table. I instantly new i had found my first chanterelles and have been a class A foraging junky ever since.
I have tested the patience of many a companion by always wanting to wade through one more beech lined burn, hop just another fence, or check out ‘that last wee bit of wood’ (its normally the one waist-deep in brambles). Any drive through a new area is normally a fairly dangerous affair too, as I ogle the hedgerows, drool over likely looking wood edges and perform emergency stops for any puffball sized pale, round object I catch a glimpse of in a field. You will be amazed by how many bouys and footballs are abandoned in fields! My other common blunder is, unsurprisingly I suppose, mistaking orange peel for orange peel fungus!
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE