A brief note on this year's gathering of foragers, written by AoF member Daniel Butler.
Since at least 2019 it has been traditional to end our meetings with a road kill haggis. Normally this vaguely coincides with Burns Night, but this year we were almost half a year out. With meetings limited by pandemic legislation our annual meet up was also restricted in number. While we successfully held our Annual General Meeting online for official business, we were delighted to be able to gather for an abridged Annual Meet Up. It is wonderful spend time with old friends, but it is possibly even better to forge new friendships and the newcomers are all – without question – great additions to the Association.
This year our events team—Mark, Leanne, Lucy, Lucia, and Amy—arranged three days in early June at AoF members Ben and Deb’s wild camping rewilding site near Kendal in the Southern Lakes. With members from across Britain and Ireland and a growing number of international members our Annual Meet Ups take place in a different location each year. Previously we have got together on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset where seaweed was a star of the agenda, a castle in Scotland, and a farm in Wales.
At Oak Howe we were totally off-grid. A river running through the site provided bathing facilities. Its chilly water made an extremely effective booze fridge—an essential since our members bring equal knowledge and creativity to drinks as we do to food.
Pizzas topped with wild produce was our first meal of the meeting, and a natural introduction to our host Ben’s workshop on cob pizza oven construction. Chicken of the woods and samphire were turned into a vegetarian version of Thai Green Curry by Lisa, whose mushroom expertise is not just taxonomy but also how to use them in the kitchen. Midsummer being less ideal for road kill haggis than January’s cool days and natural refrigeration the bulk of its ingredients were shop-bought. Yet it was still presented with authentic ceremony by Mark and his excellent rendition of ‘Address to a Haggis’.
Eating and drinking foraged ingredients were interspersed with workshops. Monica, a herbalist who runs a Lyme Disease clinic, gave a talk on ticks and Lyme’s Disease. Craig provided a detailed overview on acorns, making the work of leaching their tannins a reasonable trade for their edible merits. Deb led a tour around the site where wild species are supplemented with lightly gardened areas containing useful species that have been introduced to expand the site’s natural medicinal and kitchen cabinet.
Details for the 2022 Annual Meet Up will be circulated to members by November 2021.