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Witnessing the last days of the nomadic Moken sea gypsies

For the last few years I have taught on my plant courses about the Moken sea gypsies, and the extraordinary relationship they have with their environment.

Little did I realise that I would ever get the chance to meet them. I had tried back in the Winter of 2015 while visiting Myanmar formerly Burma, but the restrictions on travel by the military government forbade it unless I went with an extremely high end sailing cruise that included a visit to the Moken village on the Mergui Archipelago.

Click here for the full story…

Episode 11: Nathaniel Hughes On Intuitive Herbalism

Over the years I have bumped into master herbalist Nathaniel Hughes at various gatherings around the country. We never seemed to be able to spend much time together as our paths where literally criss-crossing.

That aside we both recognised that we were on a similar page when it came to meeting and working with plants. Nathaniel coming from a herbalist’s perspective, and myself coming from a forager’s perspective.

So finally, after what must be four years of missing each other, I finally caught up with Nathaniel at his beautiful apothecary at Ruskin Mill, just outside Stroud.

We chatted about all manner of things. Everything from… Read more…

New 2017 foraging course dates… limited availability

I’ve been a bit slack this Autumn.

Not slack in foraging, as I am finishing up some new recipes I will be sharing with you in a few days.

Just slack in posting the dates for my 2017 foraging courses.

I have just put them up, so if you’d like to join me on one of my foraging courses, then I am hitting the road starting in April.

I’ll be visiting London, West Sussex, Oxford, York… as well running courses around my home town of Exeter in Devon. Read more…

This wild plant’s roasted seed will amaze you…

This weekend I wanted to make a coffee substitute, something that tasted ‘rich’. Something that I could ‘chew’ on.

My shop bought coffee-alternatives include the likes of Whole Earth Nocaf, Barleycup etc.

And when it comes to finding tasty “coffee” substitutes from the wild, I have always struggled with the more common substitutes such as dandelion or chicory.

Don’t get me wrong I really like them, but coffee isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when I sip on them.

No, I wanted something that actually had the deep rich smell of coffee, and that could, at a push, be a coffee analog.

Was there such a thing out there, beyond the human world, hiding in plain sight at this time of year? Some plant jiggling around trying to get me to notice it?

This year my attention has been caught by a prickly shrub called Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus). It’s ‘leaves’, actually they aren’t leaves but I don’t want to get all botanical on you, are tough and thick and tipped with a vicious spine.

Take an eye-glass or botanical loupe and have a look at its flowers. Talk about beauty hiding in what likely appears to most people as a drab, plain plant.

Chances are you have walked past Butcher’s Broom many times.

The bright red berries possibly attracting you, while your brain over rides any desire to stop and pay attention as it screams “Poisonous Plant”.

Butcher’s Broom is part of the Asparagus family (Asparagaceae), and the berries are indeed poisonous. If eaten they cause digestive problems and a condition known as hemolysis; the rupturing or destruction of red blood cells.

Yet within the fruit are two seeds. In Tunisia these seeds are first boiled, roasted, then ground and used as a coffee substitute.

It was this fact that intrigued me. And so I went and gathered a few of the berries to see if I could replicate what they do in Tunisia. Read more…

Dragon’s Breath Relish : A novel Hawthorn recipe

There is an old Scottish proverb “Mony haws, Mony snows” meaning that an abundance of haws (hawthorn berries) will bring a severe winter.

It will be interesting to see if this old folk belief pans out this year. I have a suspicion it will.

While on a train to London back in late October, I remember noticing how red the hedgerows looked as we sped along, and the impression they made on me.

The redness came from the Hawthorn trees heavily laden with early Autumn fruits. In some areas, the hedgerows where more red than green!

This year I have been particularly captivated by Hawthorn. I’m putting it down to my visit to Ireland earlier in the year, where I sat in Hawthorn glades, under trees that some locals believed dated back 2000 years.

I’m not too sure that time frame is correct, but I do know that some Hawthorn trees can certainly live to be at least 700 years old.

And so Hawthorn caught my attention.

How was I going to work with this delightful, beautiful and mysterious tree? Read more…

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