Join the bounty hunters

From col­lect­ing truf­fles in Um­bria to berry-pick­ing in the forests of Fin­land, Xan­the Clay se­lects 10 great for­ag­ing ad­ven­tures

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

Wild food is the true taste of the place. Gath­er­ing it your­self, dis­cov­er­ing where it grows, snap­ping the stem, nib­bling the leaf or berry – hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ences don’t get more in­tense than that. No won­der for­ag­ing is the stand­out mem­ory of my hol­i­days, start­ing with child­hood sum­mers in Scot­land wob­bling past hedgerows on my rented bike (I never was much of a cy­clist), stop­ping to fill the pink plas­tic bas­ket with sweet, wild rasp­ber­ries.

As a teenager vis­it­ing my step­mother in Los An­ge­les, I’d pick small, dark avo­ca­dos, leather-skinned and creamy-fleshed, from the trees grow­ing on the West Hol­ly­wood street.

Years later, with my own fam­ily in Malta, we gath­ered bun­dles of wild fen­nel from tall plants whose del­i­cate um­bels swayed above the head of my four-year-old son. We bought a huge fish from one of the bright-coloured boats in Marsaxlokk har­bour, and roasted it on the fen­nel stalks, be­fore scat­ter­ing over the ten­der fronds and tiny yellow flow­ers, so that it was im­bued with the gen­tle, aniseed scent. Then we feasted in a dusty, gar­den pun­gent with berg­amot trees.

No won­der food writ­ers have al­ways in­ter­wo­ven travel and wild food. El­iz­a­beth David is wed­ded to the wild herbs of the Mediter­ranean; Pa­tience Gray, whose bi­og­ra­phy Fast­ing and Feast­ing has just been pub­lished, de­votes a whole chap­ter in her clas­sic book Honey from a Weed to the edi­ble weeds of Naxos.

And in re­cent years, for­ag­ing has be­come big news, with gas­tronomes trav­el­ling across the world to visit restau­rants like Noma that ma­jor on wild in­gre­di­ents.

That said, ven­tur­ing out un­guided is fool­hardy. Some local, ex­pert ad­vice is in­valu­able, if only to get to grips with which wild plants to pick, which are not worth the trou­ble, and which are down­right dan­ger­ous. We’ve for­aged for the best hol­i­days with the right slant, for your very own walk on the wild side.

1 For­age with the fam­ily in La­p­land

The Nordics are kings of the wild food move­ment, so where bet­ter to take the kids than to the Arc­tic Cir­cle for a week of for­ag­ing, fish­ing and ad­ven­ture? In true Arthur Ran­some style, there’ll be boat­ing, camp fires and marsh­mal­lows to toast, but also lessons in an­i­mal track­ing, and a pack of huskies to look af­ter. Sum­mer tem­per­a­tures are sur­pris­ingly balmy, av­er­ag­ing in the high teens. Bet­ter still, there’s no need for ex­tra pocket money as any spend­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties are scarce.

A one-week Swedish Wilder­ness Fam­ily Ad­ven­ture costs £1,575 per adult (chil­dren: £1,025) in­clud­ing full-board ac­com­mo­da­tion, re­turn flights, a guide through­out, trans­fers, all ac­tiv­i­ties, six-night lodge, one-night camp and camp­ing equip­ment. De­par­tures in July and Au­gust 2018. KE Ad­ven­ture Travel (01768 773966; kead­ven­ture.com).

2 Ram­ble through An­dalu­cia

Walking and eat­ing well go to­gether like crum­ble and cus­tard, and this trip to Mairena on the south­ern slopes of the Sierra Ne­vada prom­ises plenty of both. An­dalu­cia is fa­mous as the home of gaz­pa­cho and Jamón ibérico, both of which pair per­fectly with the local sherry.

English cou­ple David and Emma Ill­s­ley are the knowl­edge­able hosts at their char­ac­ter­ful ho­tel – re­ally a col­lec­tion of vil­lage houses scat­tered through Mairena. There are vis­its to the local fish mar­ket and a cheese­maker as well as a wine tour, but the for­age high­light is a walk gath­er­ing wild plants for the cooks, Sole and Conchi, to use in the paella cook­ery demon­stra­tion.

Seven nights’ In­sight to the High Alpu­jar­ras tour costs from £1,285 in­clud­ing full-board ac­com­mo­da­tion, flights, trans­fers and ac­com­mo­da­tion at Las Chime­neas in Mairena. De­par­ture in May 2018 (pro­vi­sional dates for later in the year). Chap­ters Ex­pe­ri­ence Hol­i­days (01707 818441; chap­ter­shol­i­days.co.uk).

3 Truf­fle hunt­ing in Um­bria

Truf­fles are the ul­ti­mate prize of for­age, with prices for a kilo of black truf­fles reach­ing well into four fig­ures. This trip, based at the 12th-cen­tury Castello del Nero is an ap­pro­pri­ately lux­u­ri­ous way to dis­cover Tu­ber melanospo­rum in its na­tive habi­tat. There are op­tional trips to a cheese­maker, but the main event is a morn­ing’s pri­vate truf­fle hunt with a ca­va­tore (truf­fle hunter) and his truf­fle hound, fol­lowed by a slap-up truf­fle lunch.

Three nights in Um­bria costs from £995 in­clud­ing flights, trans­fers and B&B ac­com­mo­da­tion at Castello del Nero, the truf­fle hunt and a gourmet truf­fle lunch. Avail­able in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber 2017. Steppes Travel (01285 601557; steppes­travel.com).

4 Farms and feast­ing on the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi coast isn’t just about lemons, and al­though you’ll find them aplenty on this trip, not least in the limon­cello that hails from Sor­rento, one of the vis­its in­cluded on the itin­er­ary. There is fab­u­lous seafood, too – don’t miss the clams and pasta. But the hol­i­day high­light, and what marks this out from Ital­ian gas­tro-tours, is a morn­ing spent on a gas­tro­nomic walk and wild food for­age, en­sur­ing that you’ll be well clued up on fu­ture strolls. There’s also a farm visit as well as wine tast­ing on the slopes of Mount Ve­su­vius – vol­canic vino is lava-hot with ex­perts right now – and cook­ery classes as well as a demon­stra­tion on mak­ing the per­fect Neapoli­tan pizza. A week’s Amalfi Food Ad­ven­ture costs from £1,499 in­clud­ing flights, trans­fers, seven nights’ B&B in a three-star, fam­ily-run

ho­tel with pool, five lunches and two din­ners. Exodus (0203 811 3008; exodus. co.uk).

5 Wine, cui­sine and cul­tureure in Crete

Crete is Greece’s foodie hot spot, with an an­cientt tra­di­tion of for­ag­ing for food in­clud­ing horta (wild greens), asko­r­doulak­ous (wild d onions) and head­ily fra­grant dit­tany, a kind of oregano. This is tour is led by Milon­akis Ste­lios s and An­gela Fen­wick, the own­ers of Cel­lar Tav­erna in Kis­samos, at the eastern end of the is­land, where most meals and cook­ery lessons take place. There are the usual vis­its to local pro­duc­ers but also to Ste­lios’s par­ents in a ru­ral vil­lage, where you’ll try local,

homely spe­cial spe­cial­i­ties, and a guided walk through t the Cha­nia botan­i­cal gar­dens fo­cus­ing­fo­cusin on plants, veg­eta­bles, fru fruits and herbs. A seven-n seven-night Culi­nary Crete tour costs from £1,225 in­clud­ing flights, seven n nights’ b&b, four din­ners, five lun lunches, trans­fers and tour guide guides. De­par­tures in Sep Septem­ber 2017 and April and Oc­to­ber 2018. T Travel Edi­tions (020 7251 0 0045; trav­eledi­tions.co.uk).

6 Pick­Pic your own in Poldark­Pol coun­try

You’ll need to book your own ac­com­mo­da­tion for this t two-day course, but it’s wor worth go­ing the ex­tra mile to be guided by Caro­line Davey, who s spent 12 years as an

eco­log­i­cal con­sul­tant be­fore set­ting up Fat Hen for­ag­ing cour­ses. Spend the Satur­day strid­ing across fields in search of wood sor­rel and hog­weed, as well as learn­ing handy child-im­press­ing tricks such as how to eat raw net­tles with­out sting­ing your­self. Sun­day is all about ex­plor­ing the seashore, with sea­weed ga­lore and much rock scram­bling. There are cook­ery classes, too, and Satur­day night is a can­dlelit feast with, if you’re lucky, mu­sic from a band led by Davey’s hus­band, a mu­si­cian and local GP.

A two-day Gourmet Wild Food Week­ends costs £195 in­clud­ing morn­ing cof­fee, lunch both days and din­ner on Satur­day. There is a list of ac­com­mo­da­tion sug­ges­tions on the web­site. Fat Hen Wild Cook­ery School (07767 792417; fa­then.org).

7 Un­spoiled Fin­land

Me­nes­jarvi, a small rein­deer herd­ing vil­lage, set in a stun­ning, wild land­scape of river val­leys and fells, could be Moomin­land it’s so un­spoiled – the per­fect spot for a na­ture-fo­cused trip that in­cludes a lunch of rein­deer sausages cooked on an open fire at a tra­di­tional Lap­pish kota (hut) be­fore a walk through the pris­tine for­est, for some berry and mush­room for­ag­ing. At night, with any luck, you’ll see the North­ern Lights in all their glory since there is very lit­tle light pol­lu­tion.

A four-night Me­nes­jarvi Wilder­ness Auro­ras dur­ing the Fin­nish Au­tumn tour costs from £1,365 in­clud­ing re­turn flights, full-board ac­com­mo­da­tion at Ho­tel Kor­pikar­tano, trans­fers, ac­tiv­i­ties and guides. De­par­tures in Septem­ber, Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber 2017. Aurora Zone (01670 785012; theau­ro­ra­zone.com).

8 Wild lux­ury in Swe­den

Best of both worlds on this trip, with three nights in a smart Stock­holm bou­tique ho­tel, fol­lowed by two nights in Ko­lar­byn Ecolodge, a sort of Game of Thrones meets Bear Grylls ex­pe­ri­ence – there’s no elec­tric­ity or showers, but the moss-cov­ered wooden huts have lush sheep­skin throws and open fires. There’s help on hand for berry for­ag­ing, chop­ping wood, fish­ing and cook­ing. Af­ter all that, fin­ish the trip with three nights’ glamp­ing on a pri­vate is­land near Stock­holm – gourmet chef in­cluded.

Eight nights For­ag­ing and Fun: A Fam­ily Ad­ven­ture to Swe­den costs from £4,700 in­clud­ing flights, ac­com­mo­da­tion and all meals at Ko­lar­byn Ecolodge and Is­land Lodge, plus car hire and boat trans­fers. Scott Dunn (020 3131 4104; scottdunn.com).

9 Talk and walk in Turkey

Turk­ish food is hav­ing a mo­ment right now, with Lon­don restau­rants such as Oklava in Shored­itch and Soho’s Babaji Pide lead­ing the way. This trip to Far­alya in south-west Turkey, just a few miles from the Mediter­ranean Sea, in­cludes a trip to the local mar­ket in Fethiye – site of the an­cient city of Telmes­sos – and a local gö­zleme (stuffed pan­cake) house in the Kaya val­ley. For­age fans get a walk in the local hills look­ing for wild herbs. There are five cook­ery demon­stra­tions too, so you’ll learn how to use them as well.

A seven-night Turk­ish Cui­sine Week costs from £1,125, in­clud­ing flights, half-board ac­com­mo­da­tion at the Man­darin Bou­tique Ho­tel, trans­fers, work­shops and ex­cur­sions. De­par­ture Septem­ber 2017 and June 2018. Ca­chet Travel (020 8847 8700; ca­chet-travel. co.uk).

10 Go nuts in Lu­ni­giana, Tus­cany

This tour to Lu­ni­giana, a rel­a­tively undis­cov­ered cor­ner of north­ern Tus­cany, in­cludes lots of off­beat foodie treats, such as a les­son in mak­ing the tra­di­tional torta di riso alla car­ra­rina pie, and a trip to the Car­rara mar­ble quar­ries where lardo, Ital­ian fat ba­con, is pro­duced. A high­light is the wood­land for­age for sweet chest­nuts, fol­lowed by a les­son in how to trans­form them into Marocca di Ca­sola, the local chest­nut bread, which is de­li­cious for break­fast served with but­ter and jam or honey.

Five nights Tus­cany: Food off the beaten track tour costs from £1,995 in­clud­ing re­turn flights, full-board ac­com­mo­da­tion with wine at din­ner, ex­pert guide lec­turer, tour man­ager, local travel en­tries and tips. De­parts Septem­ber 17 2017. An­dante Trav­els (01722 713800; an­dan­te­trav­els.co.uk).

Caro­line Davey col­lects sea­weed in Corn­wall, right; Mairena, An­dalu­cia, left; and a truf­fle-hunt­ing dog, be­low, in Um­bria

The Amalfi coast, far left; a bas­ket of chanterelle mush­rooms, cen­tre left; and for­ag­ing is an ac­tiv­ity suit­able for all ages, left

A group of friends en­joy na­ture’s bounty, above; go fish­ing on a wild ad­ven­ture in La­p­land, left, or gather fra­grant bunches of wild thyme, above left

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