In an effort to discover and familiarise ourselves with such hidden edible gems, we embarked upon a coastline and hedgerow foraging excursion, facilitated by the ever-knowledgeable Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods.
Mark is dedicated to restoring the vital connection between humans and nature, something that has become ever more prevalent in the past 18 months. With over 30 years foraging experience, there are no safer hands to take this explorative leap with. Private tours can be organised with Mark, but he also has a free online Wild Food Guide, a foraging blog and foraging and wild food webinars.
Please follow this link for more information: https://gallowaywildfoods.com/about-galloway-wild-foods-and-mark-williams/
We packed up our warmest, waterproof attire and set off to a small beach located at Brighouse Bay near Kirkcudbright. After each introducing ourselves, we indulged in a homemade elderflower champagne. Respectfully first toasting the ground from which we later would forage, we each got a snifter of this beautifully aromatic and refreshing beverage. A great way to begin our afternoon!
Not having taken 5 steps into the car park had Mark discovered an elderberry tree inconspicuously looming over us. The flowers had all but gone and enthusiastic foragers before us had stripped away the berries, but it was eagerly noted for the next year’s early harvest.
As the clouds started to gather and rain trickled, we wrapped up tight as we ventured onto the sand. Again, we had not trekked far before our teacher Mark had spotted another delectable morsel. Sea Radish in abundance along what seemed the entire coast, an acquired taste, peppery and hot, but a perfect addition to a homemade pesto.
Discovered next was Sea Arrowgrass or Coriander Grass, which you guessed it, tastes very similar to coriander. A more muted coriander taste and varied in its form from the stems of leaves to the small seeds this tasty plant produces, it can be eaten raw or chopped up like chives within a salad to bring it to another level.
Next on the foraging menu was the rather misleadingly named Scurvy Grass. Hidden in amongst the lush salt marshes, this exceedingly succulent plant surprised us all. This juicy, faintly salty leaf was my particular favourite find. Belonging to the Brassicaceae family, it can be used in salads or for the more adventurous, sushi rolls.
Whilst treading through the salt marshes we found ourselves in awe of the previously undetectable, delicious accompaniments surrounding us. Many a time have I wandered past these amazing delectables, mistaking them for mere plants. I have since explored the coastlines in various different locations around Galloway, frequently finding my desired harvest and adding a whole new level of taste to my kitchen.
Sea Aster, another camouflaged flowering plant, was brought to our attention. The leaves produce a tender, sweet taste and work exceptionally well in a stir fry or to lift a salad away from its iceberg redundancy.
The greenery on offer throughout these salt marshes were impressive, but equally so was the treats Mark pulled from his extensive pantry of foraged and pickled preserves. A sloe berry infused gin helped warm us from the coastal winds, transitioning us to the hedgerow stage of our tour. A sloe berry tree sat nestled in the hedges next to the beach, already partially harvested by locals but enough to taste first-hand the origin of the mouth-watering gin we had just sampled.
From the hedgerows we found ourselves sheltered under the canopy of trees, mushrooms was next on the agenda!
So many have I walked by and pondered their edibility, turns out not as many as I had hoped, and serious consequences for subsequent misidentification. As a novice in this field I will refrain from publishing the pictures of what we did find, I by no means want to offer guidance. A lot more foraging tuition sessions are on the horizon for me in that regard, suffice it to say, Mark found some, and they were delicious cooked at home!
At the end of our excursion into the wild foods of Galloway, we settled by the shore for the ultimate picnic. All handmade by Mark himself, exposing his past as a wild foraging Chef. Wild garlic and goats cheese pesto was the highlight for me, the regular version being a weekly dish at home completely transformed my future expectation and set me on the hunt for Galloway garlic whenever I could grab the chance.
We at Penninghame Estate can happily organise a foraging tour with Mark given adequate prior notice. This tour is not to be missed and provides the education and guidance needed to expand your own culinary tastes and recipes. What better way to reconnect to nature than foraging your own food and returning to your comfortable self-catering accommodation to indulge in your gastronomic discovery!