by Menai Holidays
Food & Drink
Foraging, or wildcrafting, as it is also known is gaining a great following. It’s obviously deeply seated in our psyche as it used to be the main way women (in the main) gathered food. But as top London restaurants feature more and more wildcrafted, sustainable, British food on their menus there is a renewed enthusiasm for it.
Three hours away from London by train, Anglesey is a stunning island in North West Wales, and was renowned in the middle ages as being the breadbasket of Wales, so fertile were its lands. Today it remains wonderfully wild and unspoilt with pure air and clear waters.
Last week I spent a wonderful afternoon with Jules Cooper, the Anglesey Hedgewitch. She moved here eight years ago and bought a six-acre plot of land at the top of the island where she and her partner have planted over 5000 Welsh native trees, and are developing a wild plant healing centre. They have an award-winning reputation for their healthy hedgerow inspired fruit leathers.
I met Jules first inside her traditional Welsh cottage and I felt a wonderful atmosphere as soon as went through her door. Greeted in the porch by lines of wellies interspersed with pumpkins; a clear indication that the outdoors is where Jules likes to be.
Inside, the wonderful rough-hewn stone fireplace had homemade smudge sticks of greek sage hung above the mantle. And on shelves were pots and bottles of goodness, labelled with “Summer in a bottle.” Bowls of sweet chestnuts, figs, apples were on the table.
Their plot is wild with pathways weaving through hedgerows, vegetable patches and trees. I was shown an edible car park, edible pond and plans for wild camping with a difference. And as we meandered our way through I was struck by a number of things.
Firstly the breadth and depth of knowledge that Jules had about the plants and their uses. I loved the connective way that Jules talked about the plants, It wasn’t about plucking something and then putting it in a salad or a stew. She shared the folklore surrounding the plant, the medicinal uses peeling layers of knowledge away as I stood watching a seemingly innocuous plant grow in stature before my very eyes.
Hedgerows and wild gardens are not manicured. They’re unruly, untamed affairs, thrusting their wares forward like a headful of unbrushed hair. I had walked past many of these lanes, hedgerows, and wild plots dismissing them as being uncared for and unkempt. Now I found myself looking at a small patch of what I would have dismissed as weeds, and finding my eyes opened to a full range of edible, highly nutritious seeds, leaves, berries and flowers. And all of which were free for me to pick and of high value to my health in the right way for this time of year.
It’s an interesting fact that foraging or wildcrafting is gaining momentum. It provides a counterbalance to the sanitised, packaged and expensive manner in which we buy our food. Here is a deeply connected, free, sustainable and freshly harvested approach to food. But it ’s more than that. It is no surprise that we happened upon berries, from wild plum, to sloe, blackberry to rosa rugosa and elderberry to name a few. All high in Vitamin C, great for warding off colds and coughs in the winter months. It’s the food that our bodies need at this very time of year.
Wildcrafting is a fascinating and tasty way to explore this wonderful landscape we enjoy in North Wales. It provides a great family activity when on holiday and you can come home to the comforts of your holiday cottage to enjoy the fruits, nuts and berries of your labours, and cook up a delicious foraged feast. See here for our full list of holiday cottages. And to book a wildcrafting experience click here.
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