Wild about for­ag­ing for food

Macclesfield Express - - MACCLESFIELD PEOPLE -

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.

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