Pecha Kucha Brighton – Volume 22 – Good Grub…

The Pecha Kucha format is something that has to be experienced. It is a quick fire set of presentations, usually formed around a theme, where the speakers are limited to 20 slides, with 20 seconds per slide. Each one flicks on automatically, so if you are behind in your talk, you are in trouble. This is a brilliantly entertaining way to learn something exciting in a concise way, and we are delighted to announce that we will be taking part in the next Pecha Kucha in Brighton.

Volume 22 of Pecha Kucha Brighton on 22nd November will be around the theme of ‘Good Grub’, with a great line up of speakers talking about food in a variety of ways, from typography to crochet. Claire will be speaking about Urban Foraging and the rewilding of the city and it’s inhabitants, based on our Edible City escapades.

Tickets are £15 (+ booking fee) and include a light dinner at Silo, the venue for the evening, and Silo founder Dougie McMaster will also be talking about the philosophy behind the project – which is incredible both in concept and practice.

But even though the event is just over a month away, tickets are selling like zero waste organic hot cakes, so if you fancy it, head to the Pecha Kucha Brighton site sooner rather than later!

(image via Pecha Kucha Brighton)

*** EVENT *** our next Urban Foraging Walk in Brighton is up…

cherry plum foragingFancy a bit of guided foraging in Brighton? join us on our next Urban Foraging walk in Brighton on Sunday 6th September – check out our Eventbrite page for more details here…

Weekend words – when life gives you cherry plums…

when life gives you cherry plums

(image and photography by claire potter)

Monday Musings – foraging – taking advantage or taking your share?

Today on Monday Musings we have a very apt discussion to wade into – foraging. Yesterday we ran one of our popular Urban Foraging walks in Brighton, leading a small group through a couple of parks and streets of the city. We pointed out what is edible, abundant, how you can use it and the folklore and traditions that surround the things we walk past every day. But one discussion that we had, was not how we should forage, but whether we should at all.

cherry plum foraging

This had arisen with the recent discussion – and argument in the Daily Mail – that foragers are stripping the New Forest bare of mushrooms. John Wright, the foraging expert linked with River Cottage (and one of our heroes) came under fire, as his paid foraging courses were blamed for the sparseness of mushrooms in the area. This accusation was quickly rubbished by Wright and River Cottage, who stated that not only do they operate within the law, but that they collect a tiny fraction of the mushrooms discovered on a walk – taking only one basket of edible mushrooms and one basket of ‘interesting’ mushrooms between the whole group. No mushroom is picked twice, and only Wright picks the mushrooms. And of course, only with permission of the landowner.applesPlus, the mushroom is only the reproductive organ of the living organism below ground, so saying that picking mushrooms is harmful, is quite honestly, rubbish. Where the argument against over picking stands is when the forest is laid bare of mushrooms – not perhaps from a conservation point of view, but it is indeed a sad sight.

So this is an interesting argument. With the increasing interest in foraging taking hold, how can we ensure that us, who teach the skill, are being responsible? 

Frankly, I believe that the people I teach to forage – those who want to reconnect with the seasons and their landscape (with respect) and supplement their weekly shop and autumn larders with nutritious and plentiful goodies are not the problem. Like Wright, I only point out items that are so common we would have to all locally down tools and pick for a week to make any kind of dent in the harvest. Hawthorns? Japanese Roses? Nettles? Do me a favour. hawthorn

We never pick items that are rare, or unusual, and if we do discover something, we look and learn.

My personal bugbear with foraging does not sit with people (like me) who run paid for foraging courses, or write books or blogs on the subject. It does not sit with people who post their foraging forays on twitter, facebook and instagram. It certainly does not sit with the individual who picks a kilo of apples on a piece of waste ground. My bugbear sits with those few unscrupulous ‘commercial foragers’ who flaunt the 50 shades of grey areas of the law – picking wherever they can, in large quantities for resale to restaurants and gastropubs. Whenever I see ‘locally foraged’ on a menu I ask questions. Where, who, when? With permission?

Foraging is about being respectful. And the vast majority of us are just that. We respect our local areas, we respect the local biodiversity and we respect the knowledge that has been gathered over generations that we risk losing forever in the eternal glow of the supermarkets.

So will I stop foraging, or teaching people how to forage? Not on your nelly. Knowledge is power and respect comes from education, not ignorance.

SPOTTED – the first sweet violets of the year. Get foraging…

So. It appears that spring has sprung. For a bit anyway. With the sudden sun, the ground has started to warm up and both the plants and weeds alike are showing a burst of life. There is a reason that we get rather excited about this – the sun starts the main bulk of the foraging season and one of the first plants that you can find are out and about now. Sweet violets, or viola odorata.

sweet violets

We are very lucky as near our studio we have a huge bank of violets within a tiny walking distance – and the thing is, we are based not in the country, but slap bang on the edges of Brighton.

There is a bit of a misconception that foraging can only occur if you are in the wilds of the countryside, or at least near to the edges of the urban sprawl. In fact, it is often harder to find stuff within a close vicinity of the next, with the city and town environment providing far richer pickings. This is why we are starting to lead Edible City foraging walks in and around Brighton (email us for details).

violas

But, back to the sweet violet. These are now in full bloom and should be available near you now. As well as the arresting violet colour, they are accompanied by a strong and arresting perfume. Smaller than the violas that you get in the garden centre, these beautiful plants reside on sunny banks, often in huge numbers.

As with all foraging – be respectful, don’t ever pick any more than you need, ask permission and never dig anything up. But a few flowers to scatter on a chocolate cake or to perfume a canister of sugar will add a wealth of the incredible sweet violet flavour to your baking… think a wholly natural parma violet sweet and you are there..

(photos by claire potter)

Monday musings – Brighton foraging and the edible city

A couple of Saturdays ago, we led a walk around a little patch of our city that we know pretty well – guiding a few people in the ways of edible urban Brighton foraging as part of our edible city month and as part of the Chelsea Fringe.

edible city walk brighton flyer

The day was perfect – wonderfully sunny but with a bit of a breeze, and with everyone turning up we soon had a crowd of 20 or so people, raring to learn a bit of urban foraging. A few people had foraged before, a few had never thought of foraging and it was great to see a couple of families interested in exploring their repertoire of wild foods.

After a run down of the (very complicated) laws of foraging we started our walk, pointing out around 15 different edible flowers, fruits and foliages, from the highly fragrant and blousy Japanese Rose to the very unassuming Hairy Bittercress.

Some of the plants and shrubs were very familiar, others not so, and we told a bit of the ancient folklore that accompanies the uses of the plants as well as uses in modern medicine – especially with our favourite shrub, the hawthorn.

But the most important factor of the day was to show how a relatively short walk can supplement the weekly food shop – urban foraging is not going to replace the supermarket, but why spend a few quid on salad leaves when you can pick them, fresh and tasty on your doorstep for free?

After an hour of walking and talking, loads of photos and chat later (including a couple of stinging nettle casualties) we ended up back at our start point, on a bit of urban greenery right next to a large supermarket, where we had a little foraged picnic feast that we had made, comprising of:

– Elderberry and ginger cordial, wild plum and rum cordial and nettle cordial for the drinks.

– Japanese rose syrup drizzle cupcakes, lilac and lavender shortbreads, ground elder and garlic mustard quiches, mini cheese scones with wild garlic pesto and mini cheese scones with wild apple cheese.

It was a wonderful afternoon – thank you to everyone who attended the event and made it such a success. We will be running a series of these Brighton foraging walks over the coming months, so if you would like to attend one of the next walks, drop us an email – hello@clairepotterdesign.com

And you can read a review from one of the attendees here, at the Epicurious Adventurer.