I had the privilege at the weekend of spending the day with Fergus Drennan aka ĎFergus the Foragerí. He is widely regarded as one of the best foragers in the country advising and appearing on TV, supplying restaurants, teaching and various research activities.
It was given to me as a Christmas present
The day started very early for me Ė about 5am driving down to Canterbury to meet just before 9.
I didn't take many pictures during the day because I was too busy making notes or eating things. those I did take were when we stopped for a few minutes.
Fergus has a relaxed nature about him and we were soon introduced to the other students. There were 10 of us all in.
From the meeting point we drove about 5 minutes to a small close leading to the a river bank where Fergus explained some of the law, foraging principles and good practice and talked us through using a plant ID book.
While there we identified Japanese Knotweed, Hog Weed, Jack by the Hedge, Clevers, Nettles and a poisonous one Hemlock Waterdropwort . While we were preparing the Japanese Knot Weed Fergus cooked up some young Hogweed shoots for us to try. Blanched in water and a knob of butter and squeeze of lemon they tasted like Asparagus
Then moving on to another location of waste ground we found Ditander (leaves taste like Horse Raddish and clears the nose), Greater Stitchwort and White Deadnettle.
We then made our way back into Canterbury and ate lunch in Fergusís parents back garden using all the greens we collected in the salad and adding a few blossoms for colour
Spice Mung Bean, Nettle, Wild Garlic and Wild Chervil Soup
Seaweed and Wild Mushroom Risotto
Wild Spring Salad with Feta, Slow-Roast Cherry Tomatoes and Fly Agaric Radishes (with watercress, Pink Sorrel, Hairy Bittercress, Nipplewort,
Hedge Mustard, Garlic Mustard, Wintercress, Sea Purslane, Lime leaves,
Dittander, and the flowers of Dawin's Barberry, Honesty, Greater Stitchwort, White Deadnettle, Red Deadnettle most of which we picked during the morning)
Vanilla Carrageen Pana Cotta with Green Fig Syrup
Seabuckthorn Berry Sorbet
After lunch we made our way a local park collecting sorrel leaves and using them to infuse white rum. Fergus also showed a more sympathetic way to collect birch sap rather than drilling holes in the trunk which I will be trying next year. Then it was off to the sea shore, looking at the plants over the water line and several sea weeds. We collected Bladder Wrack, Serratd Wrack, Japweed and Gutweed.
To round the day off we had dinner on the beach using 3 shallow fire pits. Fergus took pains to explain the risks of cooking on a Shingle beach and how to minimise them before we started
A Selection of Deep Fried Seaweed (Gutweed, Saw Wrack, Bladderwrack, Japweed)
Tumeric and Garlic Seasoned Pan-fried Sea Bass
Burdock Root Pakoras
Masala Spiced seabeet with a Cream and Tomato Sauce
Oat and Sweet Chestnut Japanese Knotweed Crumble with Custard (the Jap Knotweed tasted just like rubarb, lovely)
In addition to the two, 3 course meals during the day Fergus offered lots of small tasters he had prepared earlier. We must have tried 20-30 different things including Candied bramble stem stars, Hawthorn blossom 'honey', Sweet Grand Marnier infused chocolate coated jelly ear fungi, various birch sap concoctions, seaweed butter, serrated wrack and tomato crisps, sea purslane and marsh samphire salt coated crisps, green figs in syrup, Dawin's Barberry blossom syrup, dried dulse, wild cherry fruit leather.
We also took away jars of pickled Japanese Knotweed and sorrel infused white rum we made ourselves.
I was very impressed by the whole day, very informative with a good selection of plants and lots of ideas to make them more exciting to eat. Fergus didnít stop once. When we sat down he was preparing lunch or rummaging around in a bag for yet another tasty treat.
After a full 12 hours we made it back to the starting point and said our good buys. I went to my hotel for a lie down and Iím sure Fergus went for a well earned sit down!
All in all a great day 10/10