I visited my local estuary the other day now devoid of tourists.
The sound of the birds doing their thing that only birds do, the array of deep colours as the estuary falls into its Wintery sleep, the smell of salty air on the breeze and the crashing of the waves in the distance make we feel grateful to be alive.
For me foraging is being fed and nourished not only on what I can fill my belly with, but also on how the very act of gathering and engaging with Land feeds me on what I call a “bone level”.
Something happens when I regularly gather plants, sit with plants, be present with plants.
It’s deeply healing, yet even after so many years doing this daily, I still feel a complete beginner.
Sure I can trot out the facts and figures of how to use plants the same as the next fellow. Yet there is something else going on, something that we as humans sorely need to return to.
I try to name it yet cannot, for it is very much a feeling sense, and one that cannot be read about, or watched on a video. You have to get outside and meet this mystery, let it lightly touch your soul.
There quite simply isn’t any other way to experience it.
And so I find myself sauntering through the mud and fields of Sea Purslane (Atriplex portulacoides) that grace this estuary.
Once upon a time I made a delicious Sea Purslane pesto from the seeds which I urge you to try because it is something else on the pesto front!
Even after the cold frosts we have experienced this year, there is still much food to gather.
Yet it is not Sea Purslane that I am here to meet.
Instead my eyes scour the landscape ahead of me and I find, much to my delight that the Sea Beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima) has flourished over the months I have been away teaching.
My bliss-companion loves this plant, and always requests that I gather some when I am down on the coast.
This time I am ruminating on how to turn it into a curry.
I recently returned from India recording the wild edible plants of Uttarakhand. And so curry is still very much front of mind for me.
I don’t want to use some shop bought curry sauce. That’s too easy. Too lazy. Too generic.
So once I am home, I climb to the top of my bookshelf, noticing that my fifty something body is not as nimble as it used to be.
Heck book shelf climbing isn’t really something that I do on a regular basis so its hardly surprising really.
Hanging on for dear life, hearing my daughter’s voice in my head crying out for me to be careful, and I finally make it back down with my find.
A tired, old vegetarian cookbook I bought in New Delhi, India back in 1986. Was it really that long ago?
I return to the kitchen to start prepping the recipe. A combination of bhujia spices suggested in this cherished cookbook, and my own wild variation on a spinach curry.
This one’s called Sea Beet Bhujia.
Did it work? Well the family seem to have enjoyed it and I hope you do too.
Careful mind, as its pretty spicy!
Robin is a forager and self-taught ethnobotanist. He specialises in wild edible plants and has been running foraging courses throughout the UK since 2008. He travels extensively documenting and recording the traditional and local uses of wild food plants in indigenous cultures.