What better way to encounter the upliftlingly beautiful landscapes of the Brecon Beacons than with Adele Nozedar? A food writer, foraging pro and author of The Hedgerow Handbook (among other titles), she lives within view of the highest peaks in the Brecon. Her foraging courses and botanical gin workshops reap the bounty of each season. Here she tells Undiscovered Wales how to do just that.
Why is the Brecon Beacons ideal for foraging?
The Beacons are perfect because that is where I am; there’s nothing like getting to know what’s on your own back doorstep, so to speak. And it is beautiful! With the exception of coastal foraging, we have everything here: moors, mountains, forests, woods, streams, rivers and canals. We also have urban foraging: I regularly head out from The Angel Hotel in Abergavenny.
Sounds idyllic… So what can we hope to find and when?
I start foraging in earnest towards the end of March. In spring we find young nettles, dandelions, Jack-by-the-Hedge (garlic mustard) and ground ivy. As the weather warms, it’s possible to gather hawthorn leaves, wild garlic of all kinds, tulips and lilacs (yes, they are edible!). Summer sees the beginning of the best time of year, for me at least; young fruits are starting to form, and there is Japanese knotweed, young hazelnuts, roses, pineapple weed. Autumn brings fungi, berries, apples and soft fruits such as wimberries (bilberries). And that’s just for starters…
What do you personally love about foraging, Adele?
Foraging puts you directly into the footsteps of your ancestors. If, for example, you are picking wild garlic in an ancient woodland, then you are doing exactly what has been done for thousands of years. As well as this, it gets you outdoors – and what could be better than that? Being in nature is scientifically proven to improve our sense of wellbeing and boost out immune system – I am a qualified shinrin yoku (forest bathing) practitioner, too, by the way.
What should novice foragers be mindful of?
One rule: if you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it! Another word of warning: don’t think that plant apps are the answer. Their error rate is very high. Buy yourself a book. I would recommend mine, obviously, but the Collins guides are also very thorough, though they do cover edibility.
Your gin workshops sound incredible. Tell us more…
I show people how to make tinctures, which can be used in the gin blend or in herbal medicine. The botanicals are a mix of what we find in the surrounds and the herbs and spices I bring with me. Last year I worked with The Gower Gin Company to make a limited edition Hedgerow Handbook Gin, containing pineapple weed and hogweed seed. Ive just brought out another one called Chapter 2, which features foraged dandelion, burdock and fennel.
And how about your courses for kids?
Kids are natural foragers, however many are missing out on the natural world for one reason: the temptation of screens. It is vital that we nurture a strong connection with the natural world for children; after all, they are the ones who may be left to save the planet from our gross indulgences. They won’t be able to do this unless they have a deep love and understanding of home.
Finally, can you share your favourite foraged recipe?
That’s an easy one. My partner Liam, an ex-chef, makes a delicious dish – it’s a chateaubriand of puffball mushroom, all stacked up, with a sauce of Jack by the Hedge. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
All foraging books, gins and bookings for courses are available on Adele’s website: http://breconbeaconsforaging.com