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Feature Food For Free Foraging Walks

Sophie Haydock finds out what the green spaces of Leeds have to offer

Feature: Food For Free Foraging Walks

Forget long queues at supermarkets, plastic packaging and a whopping shopping bill – you can find tasty and healthy food for free in parks and public spaces… if you know what you’re looking for and where to find it.

Food for Free walks are perfect for anyone who has ever inquisitively nibbled the yellow petals from a dandelion, or found themselves munching a handful of wild berries they picked on a long afternoon walk – or even looked at a menacing patch of stinging nettles and thought, “You don’t scare me, I’m going to make a tasty cream of nettle soup out of you…”

Expert forager (and PhD student at Leeds University), Mina Said has been running Food for Free foraging walks in her spare time for over three years. She has taught over 250 people how to identify and prepare an abundance of natural food for free in their local areas.

Mina runs at least one of her Food for Free walks every month – she says that even in a freezing winter in Leeds there are plenty of treats to be found. Mina is so good at what she does that at the end of April, she was featured doing her foraging and preserving on the BBC2 programme ‘Edible Gardens’ (the Juicy Fruits episode).

During the three hours you spend walking around Leeds with Mina, your concept of what you can consume will radically change. She shows us that we can eat cherry blossom, (“perfect for putting a few petals in a salad”) dandelions, daisies and raw nettles – as well as wild garlic which grows in abundance in Leeds, holly leaves, wood sorrel, hairy bitter cress, lady’s mantel, quince blossom, water cress and elder leaves. “It makes you see the world with completely different eyes,” Mina says. “And completely challenges your perceptions of what you can eat.”

During the walk, we find over 30 different things to eat – growing on trees, out of the ground and in streams. Mina explains the idea is to walk on if you spot something. “And if you see it again, you can stop and pick it.” That way you’re not taking any that may be quite rare. We also find chicken of the wood mushroom – which tastes, smells and has an identical texture to chicken, jelly-ear mushrooms and St George’s mushroom. But Mina advises: “Never eat anything if you aren’t 100% sure of what it is.”

The walks cost £15, with a £3 discount for students. All the money raised on these walks goes to fund the charity, Nuru shelter and Education Centre, that Mina, her sister and aunt run in Kenya. “The money will either be used to pay the teachers’ salaries, rent on the school house, food for the children or other running costs.”

And if you’re still not convinced, then you will be when, after the long walk, you tuck into a well-deserved picnic of Mina’s home-cooked foraged food – among the delicious things she’d brought for us were chicken of the wood pakoras, cordials and fruit leathers – a real foraged feast.

To book a Food for Free foraging walk with Mina Said contact: minamoo@gmail.com

 

We found around 30 different foods in the woods around Meanwood Park, including:

Cherry blossom – Who would have guessed that you can eat the delicate pink and white flowers that are so abundant at this time of year? They are sweet-tasting and look exceptionally pretty in a salad.

Chicken of the woods mushroom – This luridly yellow-coloured wild mushroom grows by oozing out of cracks in trees and looks anything but edible: but it is! It has an identical taste, texture and smell to chicken and after blanching it for two minutes you can cook it in exactly the same way: “You can even making chicken nuggets with this mushroom,” says Mina.

Goose grass – Where I grew up, this clingy weed was the perfect missile to throw at your friends in the playground – and for that reason it was deemed ‘sticky willy’. Well, I was surprised to find that it’s a legitimately edible green, just blanch it for a couple of minutes and viola!

Wild garlic – With its subtle flavour of garlic, these versatile leaves can be found all over the place at this time of year: make them into a soup, a pesto sauce, use in a salad or simply steam.

Wood sorrel – These small and delicious clover-like leaves taste sweet like unripe raspberries and are perfect mixed into a salad or used in a sandwich as one of your five a day.

Posted on Wednesday 26th May 2010

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Comments on Feature: Food For Free Foraging Walks

Comment by Adrian Mason

Posted on Mon 12th Dec 11 1:31 pm

Sophie i live in leeds and would like to find out more about your walks and would like to know when you are next meeting, as iam interested in foraging and food for free, please email…
Many regards
Adrian



Comment by Eddie Farrar

Posted on Sun 20th Oct 13 7:13 pm

What days do you meet,very keen to get some foreging skills,email me thanks ????



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