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Sunday, 14 August 2011

A few days catch up before the US leg starts!

Got behind again, days 6-11

Ok so I am now sitting at terminal 5 in Heathrow waiting for the bag drop to open. Have dropped Finny off at his Shoreham holiday home with the McAulays and Agnes Bassett has just been left charging about with a young boxer with Toni near Reading. I think perhaps she will have an exhausting time playing non-stop so that is good. I am not sure Dulcie is feeling so happy about the situation not having gotten used to leaving her dogs. However having had years of convincing owners that there dogs would survive without them and watched them happily trot through to the hospital ward for the day I am under no illusion that we will miss her more than she misses us.

So what have we been up to, well I guess if you read the beer blog you will know that we finished in the New Forest on Friday and head for Dartmoor. My last wild food was an unsuccessful Jack in the Hedge so I was hoping for better things on Saturday. Having arrived at our friends house in daylight. Had a quick tour of the garden and I soon spotted Saturdays food - burdock was happily growing in Barry's garden so I thought as I have the landowners permission to dig it up this would be Saturdays food. The first one I dug up was quite small but as there were several I dug up three. Being in a bit of a rush I cleaned them of a fashion and shoved them in the oven to roast. The japanese cultivate a lot of burdock and eat it generally finely chopped and cooked in teriyaki sauce and in fact I have eaten it that way and thought it was lovely. However clearly I hadn't taken enough care of my preparation or in fact my research I think as when I got them out of the oven they resembled dried twigs and although the flavour was ok they were very woody and of very little substance. I had seen one of the Ray Mears wild food episodes recently where he cooked burdock root in an underground over with a couple of legs of venison and they looked really good. However I feel it was possibly the wrong time of year - I think I need to get them in the autumn when the foliage has died down or in the spring just before they sprout in order to get most of the goodness in the root and not in the plant itself. So another less than great day but then also good to try and learn about these things first hand. I always believe you are much more likely to remember what to do when you have yourself learnt what not to do.

On to Sunday, the weather was looking decidedly busy and went from hot sunshine to grey looming cloud. We set out for a walk up to Kestor with Agnes, Finny and Reuben under a cloudy but blue and sunny sky. We reached Kestor quite quickly and saw the volcanic bowl that the Tor is known for and from which Finny and Agnes had a drink. The weather had been slowly changing and now it began to pour and pour like it does when you forget your waterproof pants or have not got water proof shoes on. Obviously I am on the look out the whole time for some free food but the weather made that a little more difficult. I handed Finny over to Liz and disappeared over a stone wall to wander around under some beech trees in the hope of finding some exciting fungi but alas nothing popped up apart from a couple of chewed brittle gills so I returned to the pack where we walked down this fabulous path that felt like it had been there forever. I love these old droves and can almost feel the hundreds of past lives that have wandered down them in haste, in busyness and in aimless wandering. I am still at present having to keep half an eye on the young hound as I had let her off the lead. She is quite good but I am still not confident on switching off to her completely and focusing fully on the hunt for food so although there were things cropping up to pick I was still mindful of saving things for the Scillies and on the look out for something different and currently more seasonal.
Not too far along my patience was rewarded and as I had heard speak of today's food I was glad I waited. In the pouring rain there they all stood - easily missed by the speedy walker - wild raspberries many canes of them so I gorged on as many as I could collect in a time frame that was acceptable to my soggy non- forager companions. A great delight to find and a whole load better than burnt to buggery burdock root I can tell you!!!

We returned to Brighton late on Sunday evening and the next few days we had to get the house ready for our guests and wash and pack for the states. I spent much of Monday morning sorting out the garden and then after a trip to the dump and a coffee and cake in Hudson and Bridges ( they do very good hot chocolate ) it was back to the packing. I did take the dogs out today but my wild food had already been organized by Dulcie's attempt to get us to eat the contents of the freezer before we left. I had sorrel soup which I had made for the first ever wild food course I ran back in May. The sorrel was common sorrel and collected from a field on the way to Ditchling Beacon that I know. The place is full of the stuff but then so is most of Devon it seems as I saw a lot of it while out walking on Sunday. I have to say it wasn't my best sorrel soup but then you can't always make fabulous soup, sometimes it has to be mediocre to make the other stuff stand out!

Tuesday I was in Suffolk having driven up Monday night. I took my mothers carer out for a walk with me on my circular walk that I like to do from my Mothers house. The woods are lovely and i have found many things in there before but again nothing was leaping out. Anyway we then also ended up wandering into town and it was there in a hedge on the edge of town that I saw Tuesday's food. Hops!! I was a little dubious as again they are better eaten earlier on but then I had read in the Tree House Diaries that Nick Weston ate a lot of them throughout the season so i picked the young looking tops and took a good handful home. I am not sure what my Mothers carer thought of my free food but i steamed them when I got back to Brighton and had them with butter and pepper along with some pressed tongue that I bought in a farmers market in Devon. A very good meal though I say so myself. Since returning to the life of an omnivore I have embraced the nose to tail eating philosophy - if you are going to ask something to give up it's life to feed you at least have the respect to make the most of the whole thing.

Wednesday was more packing and an informal chat with the partners of a vet group in Eastbourne. The pub was lovely and the company very good. Dog walking was a trip to the the racecourse and I thought a tisane may be nice today so picked some chamomile and at the end of the day I mixed it with ground ivy for my last drink of the day. Chamomile is very soothing and a great tea to have before bed. It is best collected when the petals start to face backwards and it can be dried and stored for quite some time.

That brings me toThursday and I have to say a slight disappointment and confirmation that many greens are best eaten in spring. I was once again up on the racecourse this time in the rain with three dogs as Monsieur La Courge (Marrow to his English friends) was with us for doggy day care. Again I wanted something less common and found wild marjoram but also knew of a patch of golden marjoram so thought it would go well in the salad I had planned for lunch. Well it smelled lovely and the flowers were pretty but I have to say the bitterness was not adding to the overall enjoyment of the salad. I will try the other variety when I get home but in the spirit of the challenge I did eat it.

That brings us to Friday and a slight dilemma. I have now progressed onto the plane and am currently somewhere near Greenland many thousands of feet in the air. We land 7.50pm local time but I am reliably informed it will be dark when we get there. Of course I should have factored this in to the short morning walk we had with Paggles this morning but alas I did not grab any of the hundreds of blackberries I could have scoffed as I have been saving those for Scilly. Anyway we shall see and I will report accordingly and hopefully on a slightly more regular basis.

Finally my physical challenge is not doing well. I exercised with Dulcie and Barry on Sunday and the punishing regime ensured I did many press ups but I have been inexcusably crap at following the programme so will rectify this tomorrow and get my act together.

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