Anyway, while dahn sarf recently, my brother suggested a day out foraging in the wilderness which didn't exactly sound like my cup of tea until it emerged that said wilderness was located in Surrey where mobile phone signals abound, that there would be professionals to guide us and that lunch would be provided. Hurrah sez I, sounds like fun, and my Dad agreed. I suspect the prospect of lunch sold him too. And so the three of us, intrepid explorers all, set off along the treacherous pathway that is the M25.
The fruits of one's foraging obviously depend on the season and so ours was predominantly to be fungi based - which is excellent as I am very partial to a good mushroom. This was foraging for the genteel however, and the first half of the day took place in a centrally heated environment (albeit a very attractive converted barn) where we drank coffee, ate chocolate biscuits and looked at pretty pictures of things one could and could not eat. It was not until after an excellent lunch that we strapped on walking boots and set off into the forest.
I have to say, the main thing I learned about foraging for mushrooms was: don't do it unless you have a mycologist with you. Seriously. Our hauls were scrutinised before we were allowed to take them home and an alarming number of very innocuous looking mushrooms ended up in the bin marked "Deadly". I'm not even kidding.
This one is slightly more obviously sinister looking (in a pretty, fairy-tale type way):
The other thing about mushrooms is that however many you think you've got they cook down to much less. Still, our labour was not in vain as my brother put them to excellent use the following morning as part of a post-hunt breakfast.
I don't think that Bear Grylls has a thing to worry about but it was a fabulous day nevertheless. The provenance of what we eat is pretty high profile these days but even so, it is rare to have the experience of getting out there and retrieving it with your bare hands and when D2 served up breakfast to the family the next day I felt distinctly proud. I'd be interested to do it again at other times of the year when the focus of the hunt (if one can use the word hunt when talking about mushrooms and other assorted woodland plants) would be different.
There are plenty of these courses available if you sniff around online, but I would thoroughly recommend the chaps who ran ours, not least because they were both self proclaimed foodies who were not only interested in the foraging side of things but the cooking as well and the lunch provided was excellent. Let me tell you, a tummy full of guinea fowl stew and apple tart really helps when you're plunging your hand into dank undergrowth. Check out the Wild Harvest website here.