A Journal exploring the value of plants and flowers
2 min read City & Culture Food & Drink

Pub food reimagined by The Foragers

Words by Alicja McCarthy

Photos by The Foragers

Have you ever tried wild mushroom stout? Or tasted the flavours of a prehistoric cow? Head to The Verulam Arms, on the edge of London, where the food is sourced from the wild and prepared by The Foragers - a collective of hunters and gatherers headed by George Fredenham, Gerald Waldeck and Richard Osmond. Obsessed with the perception of flavour and use indigenous plant life, the boys quit their ‘proper’ jobs to pursue a more adventurous and honest life.

Each season brings new treasure. The boys’ day job consists of general day to day running of their pub but also walking through pastures, trees and even shallow seawater in search of wild edibles, from Silver Birch Boletes and Beefsteak Fungus for wild mushroom bhajis to rose-hips for their homemade BBQ sauces. They seek varieties of edible plants that many of us have never even heard of, such as Sheep Sorrel, a forgotten wild plant full of minerals with a rich citrus flavour.

Armed with their clippers, a trusty Mushroom App and Osmond’s photographic memory. The Foragers will only pick what they know to be good specimens that are full of flavour and with permission from local landowners. They advise (wannabe) foragers not to uproot entire plants and only take what they need.

Knowing about what is edible or poisonous, deadly or delicious can take an age to master, but making a start with familiar wild berries, herbs or fungi is highly rewarding, the boys explain. It’s also addictive as it brings them a sense of achievement with every new find. The more they forage the more detail they begin to see. It leads to a respect for the natural world and you don’t even need to stray far from the city or town to do it.

While Fredenham designs the pub menu based on purely wild British foraged plants, fungi, spices and game, Osmond is a walking encyclopaedia of ancient plants and expert in the field. Leading walks into the Hertfordshire countryside and beyond, teaching eager wannabe-foragers about the wonders of British wild food.

“A lot of British traditional flavours have been lost or forgotten over time. We want to bring these ancient flavours back. Seasonal wild plants inspire the pub menu and we also work with the perception of flavour using traditional alternatives to foreign spices and herbs. For instance, Wood Avens or St. Benedict’s root has a nutty spicy flavour similar to cloves and Hogweed seeds are similar to cardamom with a hint of orange tic-tacs. Unfortunately, people don’t use them anymore and we are trying to bring these delicious ancient flavours back.”

It seems that The Foragers have got their work-life balance spot on, sharing their time between the wild and the pub, educating people, meeting and sharing ideas, collaborating with other experts in fishing, seaweed foraging and hunting. “Simply ‘being’ in and around nature is therapeutic”, explains Fredenham. “There are many benefits to city dwellers spending time in nature. It increases endorphins and results in better wellbeing and creativity. For me, I also wanted to start a business to be really proud of, something that was good and honest. Something that brings people together but also reintroduces ancient edible British plant life to our plates.”

 

Check out The Foragers’ on their (occasionally controversial) Youtube channel.

www.the-foragers.com