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Wild Food Foraging in East London

From working in the city to foraging for wild food in East London, George Fredenham’s journey has been nothing if not interesting

On a misty early morning you might well find him on Hackney Marshes, scrabbling around the undergrowth, clearly a man on a mission. But lest you think his purpose might be unsavoury, fear nor, because the bearded gentleman in question is none other than George Fredenham, one half of The Foragers (the other being award-winning poet Richard Osmond), whose passion for wild food has taken him from a desk job in the city to the wide, opens spaces of East London in a quest to find nature’s bounty, be it wild herbs, vegetables, fruit or fungi.

Wild garlic & the majority of the allium season is over so we’ve massively preserved these in their gluts whether dried, pickled, fermented etc. This gets used all year round. Right now fresh wise we are using hogweed shoots (the flower before it unfurls) chopped fresh into salads or pickled. Our chef, Tom made it into a salad here with wild sorrel, buttermilk and chilli. We picked the wild sorrel as well as sheep sorrel for this dish.

Foraging has become a way of life for George and one he loves so much, he wants to share, be it with customers at the wild food pub he owns – The Verulam Arms in St Albans, or through the series of walks, courses, classes and workshops The Foragers regularly run. (see below)

“You get to know what grows in abundance in certain places, and what you can responsibly pick,” says George. “And while we love going to new places, looking for new stuff to forage, we always come back to Hackney Marshes as it’s where my foraging really first began.”

Indeed as a Stoke Newington resident, distance-wise the favoured destination makes perfect sense, although perhaps it takes someone with the knowledge and vision of George to realise the iconic grassland’s wild food potential. Right now wild garlic, cherries, Wood avens root, Chicken-of-the-woods and the Tawny Grisette & The Blusher mushrooms are top of his foraging list, with much dependent on the time of year.

Given his way, George would be out foraging every single day, but as is he manages to notch up around 16-hours a week. And it’s not just delicious meals he makes from his finds, but boozy concoctions too – wild herb absinthe or mushroom stout anyone!

“Foraging is a tremendously fun and fulfilling way to spend a day or just a few hours,” says George with a grin, and to prove his point, he’s off back in the undergrowth. It seems you can’t keep a good forager down.

If food foraging, fun and feasting sound appealing then let The Foragers arrange a walk or workshop. Whether just a few hours or a whole day, with friends or with work colleagues, George and Richard are happy to create an experience that suits. Whatever you decide, you’re guaranteed a memorable time, as you find and identify plants, fruit and fungi, learn some science and folklore and then taste the boozy concoctions and delicious wild dishes that can be made from your finds.
Find out more at 
foragewell.com

Chicken of the Woods – tree fungus that resembles chicken in its flavour and texture but mushroomy too. We made it here to resemble a roast chicken. See our latest YouTube video on how to cook vegan roast chicken.

Go to Foragewell’s YouTube channel to see the latest video on how to forage and cook vegan roast chicken (chicken-in-the-woods mushroom)

www.youtube.com/theforagers

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