October 21, 2013

Countryfile open foraging debate

Something a bit different today.  Photos of this weeks courses as usual but a bit extra in response to a report on BBC Countryfile last night.

They asked the question “Is a frenzy of foraging damaging our countryside?”

Our  response was  No…No…No!!!  Responsible, careful foragers look after the environment. This is what we believe, what we practice and what we teach on our courses.

Much is made of foraging being food for free and in a way it is. It costs nothing financially. But free of knowledge? Free of effort? Free of responsibility?………………………Absolutely not!!

On the program last night it became clearer that this was not a dig at people foraging for their own consumption but at commercial scale foraging operations to strip woodlands of all fungi. This is  the large scale exploitation of a natural resource for profit. No thought given to sustainability, morality or ecology, just an eye on the juicy financial prize. Is this foraging? …………….Of course it isn’t, so please let ‘s not confuse the two.

Countryfile wondered if TV chefs were encouraging ‘viewers to fill their baskets’ which did confuse the issue but Oliver Rose chef from The Windsor castle spoke really well about sourcing carefully and responsibly and I hope his ideas are shared by most good chefs in the uk.

The time and care that a forager puts in to collecting food from the wild, for what many people would see as meagre returns is very telling. Rose and I forage because we care about our food, where it comes from and how it tastes, not because we want something for nothing.  We are passionate about understanding the landscape around us and what it can potentially provide.  Through this understanding we appreciate the countryside even more and want to protect it as much as possible, so foraging , ecology and sustainability for us go hand in hand.

In fact scientific evidence shows that the responsible picking of wild mushrooms for the pot has little effect on populations. Our own experience tells us something similar, as we have run mushroom foraging courses in our own woods on a weekly basis throughout the season for the last 6 years with no reduction in numbers and in some cases, because of our careful management, an increase.

There are many threats to the diversity of our British landscape. Pollution, climate change and  habitat loss due to development both agricultural and industrial are all having considerable effects.  Careful, considerate collecting of edibles from the wild has comparably little effect.

At Taste the Wild we are proud of our environmental policy and feel that it is the duty of all of us to look after the natural world.  The program last night asked “are restrictions the answer?” the reply “most organisations would like to try education first” .  We wholeheartedly agree and welcome this.

Please spread the word about sustainable foraging, don’t let anybody think that foragers are greedy or inconsiderate.

Thanks to everyone who joined us around Yorkshire this week for courses at Temple Newsam, The Avenue and Nidderdale AONB.



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