We have been doing a lot of "sorting out" in and around the house this year - upgrading the loft to accomodate the large number of bottles of booze I have been making this year (I have been writing a Guardian blog and have had to up the pace a bit)  and building a shed in the garden to store all my tools and timber (I have finally given up my long term career as an unsuccessful furniture maker). Finding a place for the shed led to the cutting down of a spindly lilac tree and the removal of a lot, really a lot, of ivy. This uncovered not only enough room for a shed but for a raised vegetable bed.

I am not a gardener - foragers don't garden - they don't need to - but I thought I would give it a try. I put in some rhubarb. This took up two square feet and about two percent of the area. My wife planted some garlic and some shallots and then we lost interest. Until, that is, the weeds came up. I was, of course, delighted to see Fat Hen growing there. This is very, very common in long established veg plots but less so in new ones. And our gunea pigs were thrilled with the various dandelion look-alikes. The big treats, for me, came in the form of three plants that you would not like to see on any menu. Just to be clear - I will not be doing anything with these, I just like them.

Black nightshade has appeared - no surprise there - again, it is very common. Prettier but just as nasty is the graceful Fool's Parsley. Best of all, and a real surprise as it is fairly rare, are three splendid Henbane plants. This is a beautiful member of the potato family, with yellow flowers centred and flecked with purple. I have only seen it once or twice before and it is a real thrill to have it in my garden.

Talking of toxic plants I had an interesting drive home after a quick forage yesterday. In the car were - three kilos of particularly aromatic Sugar Kelp from Weymouth Bay, Mugwort (slightly smelly), Rock Samphire (strong carrots and kerosene), Wormwood (cannabis and floor polish) and Elderflowers (roses and cat's pee). Just made it back befor I fainted.

John Wright: 22nd Jun 2011 10:00:00

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A Letter to the New Forest Verderers

I knew something was rumbling in the undergrowth and in late July 2015, a journalist from the Bournemouth local paper asked me to respond to some surprising words delivered by my friend, Sarah Cadbury, to the Verderers of the New Forest. I duly responded. A day or two later, a journalist from the Times asked if I would write a 300 word rebuttal. On Saturday 25th I did a Google search on the story and found myself in the Daily Mail, The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian. And not in a good way. The Verders were bystanders in this but I thought I owed them a letter. Here it is. The Verderer’s Court of the New Forest I am writing both to the Court and to the Forestry Commission on the subject of wild mushroom hunting in the Forest. It is my intention to copy this letter to othe...

Conservation part 2

This is the second part of what will now be a three part treatment of conservation and foraging. On this page I have adapted the section on conservation from my River Cottage Hedgerow Handbook. The third part will deal with the fungi. People can become very disquieted over the matter of conservation and foraging. Surely, they argue, we should not be taking things from the wild for our own purposes; surely nature has been injured by us enough without this further imposition. This is not an argument with which I have a great deal of sympathy. It is, of course, perfectly possible to forage in a manner that is damaging to the natural world, but it is not actually all that easy. Many of our native species are under threat but it is not from the forager. Invasive species take a toll of habit...

Books For Sale

The Naming of the Shrew (paperback edition)

Latin names - frequently unpronounceable, all too often wrong and always a tiny puzzle to unravel - have been annoying the layman since they first became formalised as scientific terms in the eighteenth century. Why on earth has the entirely land-loving Eastern Mole been named Scalopus aquaticus, or the Oxford Ragwort been called Senecio squalid...


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In the first of an exciting new River Cottage Handbook series, mycologist John Wright explains the ins and outs of collecting, including relevant UK laws, conservation notes, practical tips and identification techniques. He takes us through the 72 species we are most likely to come across during forays in Britain’s forests and clearings: ...


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In the fifth of the River Cottage Handbook series, John Wright reveals the rich pickings to be had on the seashore – and the team at River Cottage explain how to cook them to perfection. For the forager, the seashore holds surprising culinary potential. In this authoritative, witty book John Wright takes us on a trip to the seaside. But be...


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Hedgerows, moors, meadows and woods – these hold a veritable feast for the forager. In this hugely informative and witty handbook, John Wright reveals how to spot the free and delicious ingredients to be found in the British countryside, and then how to prepare and cook them. First John touches on the basics for the hedgerow forager, with ...


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What could possibly beat a cool pint of beer down the pub or a lazy glass of wine at your favourite bar? The answer is: home-brewed beer or your very own brand of wine. With this, the twelfth in the River Cottage Handbook series, the inimitable John Wright shows exactly how easy it is to get started. You don't need masses of space to make alcoh...


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