Monica lives in a field in West Lothian, where she is slowly building her dream eco home. She is currently planting and encouraging medicinal and foraging species across 4 wild acres and have been fascinated by herbs and plants since childhood. Her original interest was sparked by a wild childhood in Kenya, where she was introduced to herbal medicine by a local Kikuyu herbalist at the age of six. She says, “We were outdoors most of the time and I remember joyfully the freedom of those early years. I love foraging for wild food as well as wild medicine and would happily never visit a supermarket again.” Monica owns and runs Napiers the Herbalist, founded in 1860, alongside Dee Atkinson one of the UK’s leading medical herbalists. She is currently studying for an MSC in herbal medicine at the University of Lancashire with a special interest in beneficial drug herb and micronutrient interaction.
As a forager, I think that buying “wild food” ingredients defeats the whole point of getting out, blowing away the cobwebs, walking, experiencing nature first hand and the joy of finding your own food. It annoys me to see Russian chanterelles flown in from the arboreal forests while the British press carries yet another seasonal story on how “mushroom foragers are stripping the woods bare” but we don’t seem to mind so much if it’s someone else’s natural resource!
Never neglect the ‘Reduced’ section…
However, I still have to go to a supermarket sometimes as I don’t keep a cow, have an olive press or a vineyard! My first stop is always the Reduced Section because there is always such a wide selection of fresh vegetables as most people seem to sadly ignore the 5 a day challenge. Crisp Savoy cabbage for 8p, bagged fresh salads for 20p, delicious uncooked beetroot for 10p, plump artichoke heads reduced from £2 to 27p and today, marsh samphire for 20p a pack (110g).
Create a delicacy with samphire
Normally I would totally baulk at both the ethics, food miles and cost of buying pricey samphire flown in from Israel. Apart from anything else, nothing beats at day at the seaside picking it, in season (July), from the estuary on a warm summer day when the tide is out. However, I hate seeing food waste even more. So this is the delicacy that you can make with 2 packs of lonely, reduced marsh samphire…
Pickled Marsh Samphire
200g (7 oz) of samphire
700ml (2 x 350ml bottles) of apple cider vinegar
2 sliced cloves of garlic
2 level tsp dried spignel (or dill)
2 star anise
2 tsp sugar
12 mixed peppercorns
1 level tsp nigella seed2 heaped tsp hogweed seed (or 1 tsp coriander seed)
1 900ml (30 fl oz) pickle jar with acid-resistant lid (recycled washed pickle jar is fine).
Pack the clean, dry samphire into the jar.
Alternate the layers with the sliced cloves of garlic and two level teaspoons of dried spignel (or dill if you don’t have spignel).
Heat the apple cider vinegar in a stainless steel saucepan the sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the star anise, nigella seed, mixed peppercorns and common hogweed seed (or coriander seed). Once it starts to boil, lower the heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
Pour over the samphire with the spices while the vinegar is still hot, making sure it covers the samphire, and seal.
Leave for at least a month. Ideally eat within six months while it is still slightly crisp. However if you have kept it longer it is still excellent added to a Wild Tartare Sauce.
More wild food recipes and foraging days out with Monica Wilde at www.monicawilde.com