Grasp the nettle and go foraging!

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Mother Nature has a way of protecting her best bounty, according to Greg – my guide to what to eat from the abundant Somerset hedgerows. I am on a Clavelshay Barn foraging course strolling along a track on the farm and I tend to agree, having been snagged many a time on thorns trying to reach a particularly plump blackberry.

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But Greg is talking about stinging nettles, which don’t have too many friends outside the neighbouring county of Dorset where they hold the World stinging nettle eating championships.Greg thinks the nettle is much maligned as it has so many uses. It can revive other ailing plants, make fine wine, tea and soups and, believe it or not, is used as an ingredient in wine gums! Greg also has a knack for pulling one up and stripping it for use as string without getting stung. Handy if you are out in the woods and ‘making do’.

Greg is a mine of such information as a qualified Bushcraft instructor but his knowledge is wide-ranging from historical and mythological to horticultural and medicinal. Before long he has his audience of excited foragers literally eating out of his hands. The mix of fresh air, new learning and a deeper appreciation of the world on our doorstep is a heady one.

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We haven’t left Sue’s lovely garden before he is inviting us to taste Rowan berries, consider the copper beech, smell the pineapple weed, imagine goosegrass boiled up like spinach and think of mug wort as a fly deterrent.

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By the time we head back to the impromptu camp he has made in the woods complete with roaring camp fire and a rabbit ready for a stew, I have recorded almost 30 species of tree and plant, each with a use I hadn’t thought about before.

It has been a wonderful way to make the familiar suddenly unfamiliar and remarkable and made me look at Mother Nature with renewed awe and respect., not to mention a healthy appetite.

Written by Vicky Banham