There is something a bit magical about picking your own food, whether it’s home grown in the garden or from bushes (don’t forget it’s blackberry picking season).
When you see anything green in the bushes along paths, do you automatically think it’ll have a bland grassy flavour? I must admit I did. But amazingly each plant tastes different. There are plants that are citrusy, garlicky, peppery, bitter, some that are sweet and there are even some that taste like parma violets! Yum. You just have to know where to look. This week we went coastal foraging with a toddler.
Evie’s dad Jamie is a chef at the Porthminster Beach Cafe in St. Ives Cornwall. The restaurant is well known for cooking with freshly foraged goods and was recently voted one of the Top 100 restaurants in the UK (they must be ok!).
This week Jamie took Evie and I foraging along the coast path right by his work. He got us to taste some edible plants (I had no idea what to look for!) and managed to encourage Evie to eat more greens and discover more flavours. It was also a good chance for Jamie to show me some of the things he does at work.
To save you from nodding off (although I promise you won’t find this boring), here’s a view from the coast path where we foraged. This was taken yesterday, hours before the autumn rain decided to show itself. So pretty!
Jamies work use a lot of foraged herbs and flowers to garnish and enhance their dishes. Everything they forage is found along the coastal path or is grown in their own private seaside garden (how cool is that?). So Jamie is well trained in what to look for and what’s edible and what’s not. Here’s what we collected on our journey:
We started off on the coast path where Jamie straight away got us to try some common sorrel. I was shocked to taste a fresh citrusy flavour and was fully expecting essence of freshly mowed grass. Evie found it a bit bitter but surprisingly it didn’t discourage her from having some more, and she immediately helped to pick and eat some cuckoo flower, which has a flavour similar to garden peas.
A bit further along the path we found some alexander, pennywort and wild watercress. Pennywort is incredibly bitter, but is said to have many health benefits (definitely putting that in my smoothies). Wild watercress tastes similar to parsnips (say what?) and alexander, also known as wild celery, has a very savoury flavour.
With wild watercress you have to be so careful. It grows in the same place as a plant called hemlock waterdropwort (bit of a mouthful), which is one of the most poisonous plants in the UK and can paralyse you if you eat it! Luckily we were with a bit of a foraging pro.
The coast path started to get a bit steep and narrow and even though we had the reins, Evie is a bit like bambi in her wellies because they’re a little bit big, so we turned back and headed to have a peek in Porthminster’s kitchen garden. Here’s a picture of our little bambi. You wouldn’t believe how sheer the drop was just beside Jamie. Scary!
The kitchen garden runs alongside the coast path. As it’s private and not for public use, they’ve cleverly barricaded off all the entrances with spades like this:
The head chef kindly let Jamie show us around and it was fascinating. Each tier of the garden grows different types of plants, all of which can be eaten and used in someway. There must be 100’s of different edible plants here, all of which are strategically planted so every season the chefs can use the freshly grown ‘in season’ flavours (it’s like London Fashion Week but for chefs, rows and rows of celeb plants) on their menu.
Evie had fun running around with a couple of chives and kept stopping to sniff and taste different plants. Although at one point we did have to stop her eating a huge wedge of horseradish.
I was so surprised at how interested Evie was. She patiently sat down in the garden while Jamie said the word of each plant that he gave her to try. Her favourite plant was the calendula. She kept stroking it and saying ‘awww’ like it was a teddy. So cute! Here are a few more pictures of us exploring the garden (believe me this isn’t even a glimpse at what you can find here):
Isn’t it fascinating? Hopefully none of you nodded off halfway through and you can impress your family by going for a country walk and shouting ‘oh darling look at this pennywort!’. Evie turned into a bit of a foraging expert and on several occasion tried to shove different plants in our mouths.
I’m hoping that the next time I walk out in the garden I’m not going to find her face down in the grass munching. We were very adamant that she only eat what daddy picked, which she seemed to understand.
A special thanks to the Porthminster Beach Cafe for letting us have a nosey in their garden! If you’re ever in St. Ives then the restaurant is a must visit, not only for the views alone but for the delicious fresh seasonal food.
If you need some more inspiration for a free day out with your family, why not go and ‘fly a kite‘ or have an autumn day at the beach! If you’re coming to Cornwall on holiday then check out my ‘Top 5 Family Friendly Beaches In Cornwall‘. This beach is on the list!
Would you ever go foraging with your children? Could you recognise plants in the bushes? Would you brave it and eat some plants that you find?