Wild about foraging for food
Name: James Wood Where do you live?: Bollington What do you do?: Professional and Experimental Wild Food Forager. How long have you been doing this?: All my life in some sense from collecting sticks when I was a child to now running in-depth wild food foraging and cookery courses. Working full-time as a forager for two years, but running courses and developing the layout for five years. How did you get started?: By making paints and papers out of wild plants during my art degree. This led on to the creation of the foraged book project – a 220 page wild food guide made entirely from wild and foraged materials, mushroom paper, bark and root paints, seaweed glues and nettle threads. From there I then moved on to exploring the edibility of these plants. I say experimental forager, as art and food sometimes cross over – for example you can make paper from wild garlic (ramson) leaves, for drawing on, however this paper can also be used as a substitute for nori sheets in making sushi. What does it involve?: The bulk of what I do is being out in the wilds, surrounded by plants, fungi and seaweeds, discovering great new spaces and flavours to work with. The rest of my time is spent developing new recipes to go towards the wild food guide I’m writing as well as to be further developed and used in our wild food cookery courses. The final section of my time goes towards developing new interactive ideas to put into courses which will allow participants to get the most out of their time spent on a day with me. This ranges from doing sketches of wild plants that I may have to draw on courses to creating new tasters handed out during the foraging section of the event. What do you enjoy the most about doing this?: I’m forever learning, meeting new people, discovering great outdoor locations, tasting vibrant and brilliant foods. On my last course in Oldham someone said: “The outdoors is pretty much your office,” and that’s what I love about my job. The best thing about Macclesfield is?: Recently Macclesfield seems to have a bit of a buzz about it, there are new things popping up, independent shops, cafés, bars and shops opening, giving us character and a real sense of uniqueness. It’s also surrounded by wild spaces. Although you may not think it, nearly all of my personal foraging happens in and around Macclesfield. My favourite place in Macclesfield is?: Victoria Park is a lovely place to spend a sunny afternoon. The worst thing about Macclesfield is?: As with all the areas surrounding us it often rains which can make my job a little harder, but a good set of waterproofs makes this a lot more bearable. What’s been your greatest achievement so far?: I’m really proud of what I achieved through the foraged book project, not only did we hand craft this amazing bespoke book, we also managed to get 1,800 people interacting with their local outdoor spaces through deeply engaging sessions. The participants are more likely to return to these wild spaces, interact with the plants there, develop a sense of ownership of their wild spaces, improve both physical and mental wellbeing as well as developing family bonds with one another – it’s a great feeling to know you’re making a real difference to people’s wellbeing. Also being filmed for the BBC was a great achievement. Most funniest / memorable moment while doing this?: When I was collecting some nettles in Nottingham I went in to a woodland wearing bright yellow gloves, to protect my hands from being stung, I collected about half a basket of nettle tops, for a soup dinner, then heard a rustle behind me, in the distance a man was squat down doing, what I presume, was the toilet business. I looked at him and thought he must be mad – then realised he must have thought the exact same thing watching me walking around the woods with a pair of bright yellow cleaning gloves on. Any ambitions for the future?: I’m a very ambitious person. Over the coming years I will continue to develop my courses, running more specialist wild food cookery classes, writing articles for the UK’s leading outdoor magazines, finish off writing my wild food foraging and cookery guide and much more that I can’t go in to specifics on right now. But one includes a film crew. How can we find out more about this?: Every month I send out a newsletter, it includes a number of things. Firstly it includes information on the wild plants and fungi to keep your eye out for during the month, as well as a list of recipes to use the wild ingredients in. Secondly it has news on what I’m up to over the month and what we’re doing that month that might be of interest to you. Lastly a list of what sessions we have coming up that you might want to join us in. You can sign up at www.totallywilduk.co.uk. Anything else you would like to share?: Over 90 per cent of every wild plant you see around you at any one time in the UK is edible. Some of these grow in abundance to the point they can actually become a pest. Let’s find a new way to interact with these wild plants, let’s utilise them, become involved with our wild spaces and create some truly delicious foods in the process. There’s no need to be scared about picking the wrong thing, simply join me on a single course and I can guarantee you’ll be confident enough to start picking and utilising what lies all around us, all the time, in abundance.