Catherine Fellows sticks on her wellies. goes back to nature and expounds upon the joys ofliving on nuts and berries.
There is something wonderfully rebellious about striding through the streets of a city in tnuddy boots with a basket full ofblackberries. Smirking at a ruddy reflection in shop windows. it is easy to disdain the plump. perfect products on the other side: bland vegetables washed of all traces of their origins. exotic fruits robbed of half their charm and most oftheir ﬂavour by constant availability and a ludicrous journey. (I mean. just picture bananas ﬂying round the world). This defiant booty
is so fresh and fragrant — and free!
There is some kind ofwild hunter-gatherer streak in urban folk as resilient as the brambles which rampage over disused railways and neglected graveyards. In Scotland. the full natural fecundity ofthe countryside is never far away. At this time of year. a day’s excursion from Glasgow or Edinburgh can shoot through layers ofsophistication and. paradoxically. yield delicacies that would cost a fortune in a Nouvelle Cuisine restaurant.
It would be fantasy to suggest that we could feed ourselves by foraging. but it is uniquely invigorating to bypass the intermediaries upon which civilised survival depends.
The variety of naturally occurring foodstuffs is such. even now in the days ofchemical weedkillers. pollution and much human traipsing. that it makes the most extensive cultivated selections look limited. There are hundreds ofcommon plants whose distinctive flavours should make an iceberg blush - the young leaves ofchickwced. wood sorrel. cow parsley. sweet cicely.
90'l‘lie List 28 September :— ll October 1990
hawthorn and dandelion. for example. all make tasty additions to salads. Ground elder. hogweed. comfrey and nettles are just some of the plants whose leaves and stems can be cooked lightly like spinach and served with butter and black pepper as a deliciously fresh and simple hors-d‘oeuvre or side dish.
Recently. I was searching for blackberries and mushrooms in one of those rare fields where cows graze around clumps ofbushes and trees. when I realised that the lush greenery a! my feet was sorrel. Sorrel has a sharp. fruity flavour that has been likened to plum skins: it is similar, but stronger than the trefoil wood sorrel. It has traditionally been used as a substitute for fruit in Hans and turnovers. to flavour soups and sauces. and as a cooked puree with egg and fish dishes.
At this time ofyear. elderberries can be seen in profusion everywhere. Unlike the ﬂowers of this beautiful and productive plant which are nectar on their own. the berries are best in combination with other seasonal fruits in jams. jellies and
Chutneys. Less common. but worth trying if you find them. are bilberries (also known as myrtle berries and used widely in France). dewberries. sloes. rosehips. crab apples and rowanberries.(‘hestnuts and hazelnuts both grow wild locally
but after much de-husking. the nuts are often disappointingly small. There are endless ways ofeating nuts. but I would want to savour hard-won wild ones. roasting the chestnuts plain. and the hazels in olive oil and salt. This is how they are served by street sellers in Turkey. and they are delicious.
Probably some of the most exciting finds are the mysterious. and often wonderful. edible members of the mushroom family. Damp. shady woods and open pasture each host many species. Varieties that you are most likely to come across in the fields are the shaggy ink caps. parasols. fairy ring champignon. horse and ofcourse field mushrooms. Woods are the places for the Cep. lloney Fungus and
wild mushrooms is to cook them very simply. The smaller ones are g