Foraging course with Fergus Drennan

On the 14th May 2009, I spent a day with Fergus the Forager on one of his courses in Kent. Fergus has an incrediable amount of experiece with Wild Food, he is hugely enthusiastic, and experimental. In one day I tasted about 30 plants I had never experienced before, and was blown away by the variety and power of flavours.


Fergus took us to several different locations, to sample plants that require different habitats. Near to a river, we picked the young shoots of Giant Hogweed, which contain a sap that causes skin irritation. However, carefully cut and steamed til tender, Hogweed shoots are delicious and tender like asparagus.

Hogweed shoots

We tasted the stems of Burdock, Common Dock and Bristley Oxtongue – all stripped with a knife to reveal fresh crunchy stems with distinctive textures and flavours. In the woods, Fergus showed us a silver birch tree he’d tapped earlier in the year, and we tasted the Birch Sap syrup he’d produced – an incredible foraged sugar. (Although it takes a huge amount of reducing down, so each litre of syrup requires approx 80 litres of birch sap). We tasted a plant in the cruciferae family called Dittander. I nibbled a leaf and was shocked at overwhelming powerful flavour of mustard, as strong as a hot chilli, that made my eyes water.

For lunch, we ateĀ  foraged feast: a salad containing 18 different ingredients, Quiche made with acorn flour pastry, sea kale and parasol mushrooms, and mashed potato with Dittander. Fergus had prepared two deserts: a milky pudding made with a seaweed similar to Irish Moss or Carraghean, to set it into a jelly-like consistency. And Sea Buckthorn juice sorbet – which had an amazingly zingy acidic flavour.

Fantastic foraged salad

In the afternoon we visited a lakeside, and tasted the inside of the base of a reedmace stem.


The final part of the day was spent exploring the coast. We tasted many more plants – from the aniseed-like Alexanders, introduced by the Romans, to the cooked stems of Japanese Knotweed, that are remarkably similar to rhubarb. We had a dramatic dinner on the beach: Fergus cooked six different types of seaweed, throwing them one by one into a pan of hot oil over the fire, like a magician performing a ritual.

Flaming seaweed

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