Foraging in Dumfries & Galloway

25/03/2015 14:15

Written by Mark Williams

Eskrigg Nature Reserve © Alan Irving

Wild food guide, chef, consultant and advocate Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods believes foraging to be the ultimate expression of the Slow food movement. Mark works closely with a number of local restaurants and also runs courses. Here are some of his tips for foraging in the area.

(Photo: Eskrigg Nature Reserve © Alan Irving)

Plants

Most people are familiar with the common hedgerow fruits of autumn, but that is just one small corner of the wild larder. Succulent winter coastal herbs, vibrant spring shoots and aromatic summer flowers make up an endlessly varied palette for food lovers. Inspiration is round every corner and I make everything from aromatised wines, to pickles, confectionery and cakes from Galloway’s astonishing range of plants. My favourite thing though is to nibble the flavours of special times and places as I move through the breathtaking, edible landscape.

Funghi

Nothing captures the would-be forager-gastronome’s imagination quite like wild mushrooms.

Nothing captures the would-be forager-gastronome’s imagination quite like wild mushrooms. The striking forms, poetic names (amethyst deceiver, angel wings, horn of plenty anyone?), wide range of flavours and medicinal uses are only half the pleasure: the ‘thrill of the hunt’ is like a wild treasure trail, an intimate dance with nature. Many people are paralysed by the fear of poisoning themselves, but this is easily overcome by following a few simple rules and joining me on one of my
guided fungi forays.

Seaweeds

Marine algae are the richest largely untapped food resource in the world. As there are no poisonous seaweeds, the challenge is in getting to know the most rewarding species (you need to get the tides right for this) and learning how to process and use them in the kitchen. Of the 300 or so species available around the Galloway Coast, my favourites include laver (also known as ‘nori’), sugar kelp and pepper dulse (an extraordinary little seaweed that tastes somewhere between truffle and lobster!). I know of no savoury dish that can’t be improved by the judicious addition of seaweed.

I know of no savoury dish that can’t be improved by the judicious addition of seaweed.

Shellfish

The Solway Coast is rich in a wide variety of shellfish, most of which can be benignly harvested for personal consumption. While the cockle fisheries are currently closed (though I doubt anybody would object to you gathering a few for your tea), spoot (also known as ‘razor’) clams, mussels, shrimps and winkles are there for all to mindfully gather.


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