This weekend I had the great pleasure of attending a foraging walk with Galloway Wild Foods - AKA Mark Williams. Mark is a terrific guide, a patient mentor, and a truly skilled and vastly knowledgeable person. The extent of his knowledge about and passion for wild foods was evident throughout our walk, as he picked out plant after plant, mushroom after mushroom, each time regaling us with fact after fact after fact. I tried so many incredible plants straight from the soil, from clove root to pine sap to wood sorrel, and that was a true delight: being able to finally identify plants I see every day but (rather unconfidently) think “I bet I could eat that”.
(N.B. Not everything pictured above is edible. Please do not pick and eat mushrooms based on these photos, and always do so with an experienced forager!)
Mark is not only an expert forager but a culinary talent too. His liquid concoctions are botanical wizardry; incredible cocktails of wild ingredients like sea buckthorn, hogweed bitters, meadowsweet, clove root, and sloe, teamed with healthy doses of alcohol (which we found to be a big help in the more-than-chilly outdoors!). The walk was finished off with a shared meal, and Mark kindly adapted to accommodate the vegans in the group.
My bowl of fresh chanterelles - cooked gently in their own juices with powdered wild seaweeds, mushrooms, and a little brandy, with a little sweet cicely on top - were phenomenal. The slight sweetness and aniseed flavour of the cicely was the perfect foil to the rich, iron-y seaweed and mushrooms: definitely a combination to remember. Interestingly, someone I spoke to who tried both the vegan and non-vegan dishes said they preferred the former, since there you could really taste the mushrooms in all their complexity. From a purely culinary perspective I think I’d agree that, sure, adding cream and eggs will bring a fatty richness to a dish, and sometimes that richness is nice, but fresh, wild, amazing ingredients like Mark’s chanterelles don’t actually need much to make them into something really special. With a hunk of crusty bread and a dribble of pine oil, mine were pretty godly.
In all, our afternoon with Mark was a real treat for both mouth and mind. I highly recommend Galloway Wild Foods walks to anyone even vaguely interested in foraging, wild food, or cooking more generally. Mark really is an inspiration, and he's friendly and down-to-earth (pun intended) too. I'm sure that any time spent learning with him is truly time well-spent.
Head to the Galloway Wild Foods website to find out more about Mark's wild food walks. Mark also shares useful information and his favourite recipes, so it's well worth a visit even if you don't want to do a class!
Until next time...