ES­CAP­ING COL­UMN Colder days are on the way, but there’s plenty to tempt you out­side.

Head out­side to see what sea­sonal treats are there for the nd­ing

In the Moment - - Contents - Words: Sian Lewis / Il­lus­tra­tion: Bett Nor­ris Sian Lewis is a free­lance travel writer and the edi­tor of The Girl Out­doors (www.the­girlout­doors.co.uk), a blog for any­one in search of a lit­tle ad­ven­ture.

Come gather ye black­ber­ries while ye may – the ad­vent of au­tumn is the per­fect time to try your hand at for­ag­ing. The art of gath­er­ing wild food to eat is thrifty and fas­ci­nat­ing, as well as a bril­liant ex­cuse for a mind­ful ram­ble. And mak­ing tasty sal­ads, po­tent liquors and fresh pud­dings from your nd­ings is just as calm­ing and ful lling as hunt­ing them out in the rst place.

There are very few places on earth where na­ture won’t pro­vide the pa­tient seeker with some­thing good to eat. In Fin­land, the woods are car­peted with dusky blue­ber­ries and gleam­ing yel­low cloud­ber­ries – lo­cal chil­dren love to col­lect them to eat with thick yo­ghurt. In Spain, the lit­tle daugh­ter of the fam­ily I was stay­ing with con dently took me into the for­est to pick chanterelle mush­rooms, and then we ate our bounty for lunch, fried up with cream and gar­lic. I usu­ally pick mush­rooms with some­one who knows what they’re do­ing, but if I’m trav­el­ling solo I tend to search for wild herbs on my own – they’re one of the eas­i­est things to for­age for be­cause they’re so easy to iden­tify. In Tus­cany I found huge stfuls of wild rose­mary that scented my ngers and went well with Sun­day lunch, and I came home from a hike high in the moun­tains on the Greek is­land of Chios with a ruck­sack full of del­i­cately scented wild thyme.

The val­leys, forests and coast­line of Bri­tain are my favourite places to go hunt­ing, per­haps be­cause, on our lit­tle is­land, wild food is so in­trin­si­cally aligned with the chang­ing sea­sons. Spring brings the del­i­cate white blooms of el­der ower for cor­dials and cham­pagne and the waxy green leaves of wild gar­lic for sal­ads and pesto. In sum­mer, ripe plums and ap­ples hang heavy from branches, beg­ging to be trans­formed into jams and chut­neys, and ed­i­ble ow­ers like bor­age and rose scent the air. Even in the depths of win­ter, when the land­scape seems bare, the trusty net­tle makes a lovely soup and there’s nu­tri­tious sea­weed to har­vest on the beach. But au­tumn is the best and the most boun­ti­ful sea­son for the for­ager. As the leaves turn rus­set and gold, chest­nuts ripen on trees and mush­rooms sprout in wood­land clear­ings. I nd the food of the for­est ir­re­sistible at this time of year, and just list­ing the good­ies that are ripe for the pick­ing sounds like writ­ing po­etry – rowan, dam­son, crab ap­ple, rose­hip, sweet ch­est­nut. There’s plenty of sus­te­nance out of the woods, too – go beach­comb­ing for sea­weed such as dulse and blad­der­wrack, for sea cab­bage (a kale-like plant that is de­li­cious when cooked) and for sea buck­thorn – a sharp and acidic berry that makes a Vi­ta­min C-packed cor­dial.

I have long ar­gued that for­ag­ing is a form of mind­ful­ness. It takes you out­doors, into re­mote forests and along wild coastal paths. It al­lows you to set a slow pace, to en­gage with your sur­round­ings and to fo­cus on the lit­tle de­tails. There’s just some­thing so sim­ple and pleas­ing in pick­ing wild food – it re­minds me of the happy, heady sum­mer days as a lit­tle one, face sticky with the juice of stolen berries.

In­spired to nd food for free? Be aware that for­ag­ing is le­gal in Eng­land, but only if you’re col­lect­ing for your own per­sonal use. In Amer­ica, what’s okay to pick varies by state and even by city, but in­for­ma­tion is usu­ally eas­ily found on­line. If the ap­ples you’ve taken a fancy to are on pri­vate land, it’s al­ways best to ask per­mis­sion to pick them. Take only what you can eat and leave plenty be­hind for wildlife (and other pick­ers!). Don’t for­age near roads, to avoid pol­luted plants. And if you’ve never foraged be­fore, stick to eas­ily identi able crops, such as black­ber­ries or net­tles. See if there’s a lo­cal wild food course you can take – it’s eas­ier to recog­nise plants if some­one shows you their char­ac­ter­is­tics, plus you’ll learn secret hotspots to for­age at.

Once you start, you may nd your­self as ad­dicted as I am to for­ag­ing – it’s the ideal way to en­joy the sea­sons.

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