Monday, 24 January 2011

Foraging Day at The Wild Garlic, Dorset

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It's the morning after the night before and my husband, his brother, his brother's girlfriend and I ooze slowly down from the comfort of the lovely apartment and crumple into a little heap at the bottom of the stairs.

"Morning," chirps a jaunty-hatted Mat Follas, in a pinchably cheerful manner, "Don't tell me you've just got up?".


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"Grhmmmhrth", I say as we sit down at the long wooden table for some reviving coffee and cake. It's not that early to be fair - 9.30am.

The restaurant is full of other sprightly looking people - we've all gathered for a foraging course at the Wild Garlic led by expert Theo Langton and Mat himself.

"You're wearing city shoes" says Mat about my tough, plain black Clark's boots, "You're going to get mucky".


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I make another noise of disdain and nurse my cup of coffee.


The brother-in-law and girlfriend are a good bit younger than the husband and me and, thoroughly perked up, they excitedly flick through their mini Food for Free foraging handbook they've brought along.

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Theo gives us a short talk about what to expect and some house rules ("No eating anything unless we say it's okay") and then we're off.


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Our first stop is rather unexpectedly a little lane just off the Square where the Wild Garlic is located.

Plants which look like weeds to me and which I see so often I don't "see" them any more turn out to be ground elder, jack-by-the-hedge and hogweed.


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Down another lane we go, and there's walnuts and blackberries, cobnuts and nettles.

Every discovery comes with a story from Theo and some culinary tips from Mat, and we make notes and take pictures and begin to think "Ray Mears has nothing on me".


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Now it's time to go further afield and we hop into a minibus driven by Mat himself and end up in a sun-dappled copse, where we traipse about merrily spotting different types of mushrooms.

Picking them the proper way (slice and not uproot so as not to kill), we offer them up to Theo for identification in hushed tones as if bearing tributes to a mighty potentate.

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We punch the air when we come up with an edible one and sigh when we come across a dud.

We find russolas and chanterelles and ceps and amethyst deceivers, different shapes, different colours, every one fascinating.


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It's all fantastic fun and we're genuinely sorry when we're told it's time for a mid-morning break and driven back to the Wild Garlic.

The sorrow doesn't last though as, back at the ranch, there are glorious brownies, fresh strawberries and more tea and coffee on offer.


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Refreshed, it's back in the bus for a journey to another beautiful part of the countryside - rolling hills, sheep and a fort on Eggardon Hill.

Hardy country is indeed stunning; I later find out that much of Hardy-inspired Tamara Drewe was filmed in the area.


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Here we come across wild apples and peppermint, sloes and damsons, sorrel and yarrow.

The fresh air and the feverish joy of finding nature's bounty is one of the best feelings I've had in a while.


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We sit for a while and we contemplate the beauty before us (well, Mat checks his iPhone and the rest of us contemplate).


Finally it's time to return to the fold where a delectable spread awaits the foragers and Mat and Theo who stay with us to chat and to answer more of our excitable questions.


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The foraging theme is continued through to the food - the soup is nettle; the ice cream is sharp sorrel; the jelly is made from damsons; there's sloe sauce with the confit duck.

And to add to our giddy joy, at the end of the meal Mat comes out with gift bags for us all containing a Wild Garlic mug and a small packet of ramson seeds ie wild garlic ...


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Fabulous day, fabulous course and yes, you do get muddy, but it's all very gentle. Best of all is the nifty little price - £95 all in.

The wonderful thing is that it's obviously seasonal - I cannot wait to go back to Dorset in the Spring and in the Summer to be shown what else Nature has in store for us.


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The Wild Garlic
4 The Square
Beaminster
Dorset DT8 3AS
01308 861 446
http://www.thewildgarlic.co.uk/
Details of foraging courses can be found
here


This post is dedicated to Tash Samways, who was one of the reasons I loved The Wild Garlic.




18 comments:

  1. love this post but when did you do this? I assume last spring?... we often go foraging around the hedgerows up here in Lincolnshire... last year I made lot's of nettle based food... like you I CANNOT wait for the spring again so I can get back out to natures bounty!

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  2. What a lush way to spend a weekend! Although i'd have been tempted to forage in the local cafes for a cream tea ;-)

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  3. @Dom - Hi Dom - actually this was in September - a late post but not quite that late :)

    @Katie Bryson - Ah, with the tea and coffee and mid-morning brownies, we were already spoilt!

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  4. Excellent, MiMi - I'm back in Dorset in March. Can't wait...and will be back to WG for dinner, of course.

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  5. Completely inappropriate boots with heels if I recall ! Townie that you are !
    It was a perfect late summers day ... was all I could do not to lie down on the grass and snooze :)
    Second growth of nettles provided the soup ... in spring and early summer we go to the beach for sea vegetables instead of mushrooms
    Look forward to seeing you soon x

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  6. A lovely post, lovely way of remembering.

    Thank you for the link, as well.

    Have recommended the day to lots of people, but keep thinking Pete and I must put what we learned to better use, though!

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  7. What a fantastic post! This looks like such a divine way to explore the country- and a great way to properly break in some gum boots...

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  8. Really enjoyed this post! What a great idea - one of those nifty gifts you give someone else but then are obviously "forced" to attend as well.

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  9. Mat's foraging course sounds a lot more respectful than one I went on in autumn when the group was 30 strong and people were ripping up mushrooms left, right and centre.

    Oh and good luck with the ramson seeds, not even you could kill a wild garlic plant. Well I hope not anyway

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  10. I really would have liked to go on Matts course before I moved. I saw him give a small demo at Hix, Lyme Regis, with some foraged goods. Was very inspired (along with his great hot smoker, another thing I still want).
    I hope to find a similar event in Australia although I'm not too good in the bush, don't like spiders, snakes, leeches etc etc....hmm a paddock might be all I can handle.

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  11. Excellent photography; really, really difficult to do - and as Food Urchin says, a really sensible piece of information re mushrooms.

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  12. @fran39 - Super, are you booked on a course, Fran? Have fun!

    @Mat Follas - We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, thanks to you and Theo. Although I wish you'd taken us to trespass on Martin Clunes's land :) Look forward to seeing you too, you awful iPhone addict x

    @Kavey - I have to admit I've not done much foraging yet, but winter got in the way. Going to the Noma talk by Rene Redzepi brought it all back though.

    @tori - Thanks Tori! It was lovely especially for a townie like me :)

    @LexEat! - Thank you! Best type of present!

    @FoodUrchin - Yours was memorable for other reasons too :( Weren't you going to give me a wild garlic plant, hmmm?

    @VintageMacaroon - Ah yes, a smoking genius, that man. Aussie foraging probably is terrifying.

    @chumbles - Thank you kind sir

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  13. Wow... great post. It looks so fun! I love walking in the countryside and have always wanted to go foraging!

    I'm definitely going to look into this for Spring. :D

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  14. This sounds like such a lovely weekend treat ... It would be nice to go foraging with the guidance of someone who knows what they're doing ... I'm always too scared to pick anything unless it's as obvious as a wild blackberry

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  15. Foraging is the future it seems - no airmiles, fresh super-local food, it all sounds ace. There is something wonderful about not just eating local, but actually picking the plants and fungi too. A bit like vegetarian hunting...

    And can I just say, that is an awesome tattoo that Theo has.

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  16. @Yeebot - Thank you! Spring would be lovely and I think there are a few dates left in March.

    @Good Bite In - I'm the same - it's lovely to have someone looking out for you :)

    @The Grubworm - Indeed, and he carried it off as well - not many people can.

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  17. I liked the 'perked' you got in there ;)

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  18. @Lizzie - Oh! Ha, no, other brother-in-law! There are better puns I could make regarding his girlfriend's name :)

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Thanks for taking the time to comment!