There is something about shopping in the wild for food. Eating for free, as my father used to call it. From a young age, he taught me how to survive on food from the hedgerows. I often wonder if what I ate was meant to be eaten! But here I am to tell the tale.
Quite often we would sit by an open fire upon which a heavy saucepan sat, with something or another boiling away, usually nettles or rosehips. This was often followed by a bowlful of blackberries and the leaves (quite edible) or gorse flowers, red clover flowers and sticky grass (cleavers, goose grass (Galium aparine), also quite appetising.
My father would catch a fish or collect cockles or a crab, sometimes a bowl of prawns and shrimps and we would have a feast. All for free, and cooked on a fire on the beach.
Looking back on those carefree days of eating for free whist my head was permanently in a book full of adventure, there is no wonder I turned out a free spirit. I can hardly resist anything growing wild that is edible and a book full of mystery! But one should invest in a good reference book if you’re not sure of what is you can eat. Take for example mushrooms. These can vary enormously, from toadstools to the delicious girolles (yellow-orange mushrooms) so be careful what you eat.
During the summer months, my father would make a salad of hawthorn leaves, hedge sorrel and hedge mustard, sprinkled with the gorse flowers and marigolds. I can’t say that I liked everything he gave me, and sometimes I would fill my pockets with leaves I couldn’t eat, not to disappoint him. He made such an effort to teach me how to survive in the world.
And so it is, that I am happiest roaming through woods or along the beach. The smell of salt in the air helps to revive me when I’m struggling and the touch of the soft earth and the dew on the grass almost always brings me back to life.