Skull Gang Foraging Club: Wild Wales
Even though it was summer, the Welsh weather was perfect. The rose bush, heavy with rain, had fallen from the shingle roof and lay thick and fragrant over our door. Ducks, escaping the rising river, stood one legged in the grass. The mist, heavier than the mountain atmosphere, hung low in the valley. The fire had been lit, and a loaf of bread baked.
It is easy to forget that Wales is a country in its own right unless you’re watching the rugby. Up here amongst the sheep, and hill farms with names almost solely made up of L’s and W’s, it’s hard to imagine we are on the same island. The roads are the kind of country lanes that Americans think of when they hear the word England. The hedgerows are tall and narrow, almost touching in points. Apple trees hang over the road, forming green arches, and narrow stone bridges cross clear mountain streams. The bridges are so narrow the car almost wouldn’t fit over them. We were in a Ford Focus. Mental.
The only reason we found the farm was because we asked a farmer by the side of the road. Later we found out he slaughters the pigs for our hosts. Everyone knows everyone here. I tried to claim that I fit in, because my name is Davis and I had lived for a short time down the road in Ponty Pridd. Jo told me I was a dick.
The cottage itself was amazing. We were staying in a converted medieval Barn, which stood alongside the original stone farmhouse (thanks Mum and Dad). The mountains were divided into lush green fields by hedges as old as the farm, and dotted with sheep. Red Kite’s hung in the air over the valley on the lookout for rabbits, and shaggy, long horned Highland Cattle grazed by the duck pond. Surely there was some food to be had here.
I thought Mushrooms would be our best bet, and that was what we went looking for. We found none. But what we did find more than made up for it. Further up the mountain, beyond the pigs, was a spring. By the time it reached the farmhouse it was what can only be described as a bubbling brook. I tried my best to find something else to say about it, but there isn’t anything. Thick beds of watercress grew amongst the clear mountain water, and fennel dotted the bank. On the verges of woodland, somehow still full of bluebells, we found Alpine Strawberries, and raspberry bushes and wild garlic grew amongst the hedges.
We also got a bunch of Rhubarb. It was growing in a garden, but foraging is foraging. Rather than use it in pudding we thought we would try something different. This is what we did:
Trim the Rhubarb and put it in a large pot.
Fill with cold water and bring to the boil. As soon as it boils, pull off the heat and leave to cool.
When completely cool, slice lengthways into thin ribbons and toss in lemon juice.
Sear off some scallops.
Plate the scallops on a bed of fresh pea shoots, and top with the Rhubarb.