There is an air of magic and beauty that surrounds the Lincolnshire Wolds. With its mix of ancient rolling hills, pastures and hedgerows it is stunning. But it’s not just the sights and sounds that make this wild landscape worth a visit, it’s the flavours and tastes too. Nikki Bawn gives an insight into foraging in Lincolnshire.
In a tiny village a stone’s throw from the highest point of the Lincolnshire Wolds, my new venture, Boggle Lane Foods, uses the magic of nature to create unique dining events, delicious dishes and edible products.
I escaped the corporate world to follow my passion for the Wolds landscape and all its natural, local produce.
The area is a treasure trove of beauty and flavour which I love so much. I took a leap of faith, bought and renovated a house in the hills of the Wolds and set up my food business. The place needed a lot of work and the crowning glory was when the new kitchen went in. I wanted to create and provide meals, products and dining experiences that celebrate this wonderful, wild place and everything it has to offer.
Years ago, people instinctively knew where to find food, in the days before mass production and supermarkets. This knowledge is far rarer now, but natural remedies and nutritious food can be found almost everywhere in our hedgerows, forests and fields.
It’s not just the amazing ingredients like heritage vegetables (including wonky carrots), and flavour-packed meat, cheeses and eggs produced locally that can make every mouthful a celebration. You can literally eat the landscape by foraging for aromatic plants and berries. These create amazing depths of flavour and can provide real nutritional ‘oomph’ to dishes.
As the weight of winter has lifted from the landscape, the vibrant colours of new growth of spring are revealed, meaning foraging activity will be hot on my agenda.
I’ve always loved finding food in fields and hedgerows. I have many happy childhood memories of dipping rhubarb in bags of sherbet and picking berries, and of being told off by my mother for eating things before we got them home to be washed!
Spring and autumn are the busiest foraging seasons and I’m learning as I go along. The house sits on a good plot of land and so I’ve started cultivating my own heritage vegetables, fruit and herbs. When it comes to foraging, though, there’s something so satisfying. I think it must appeal to that primeval part of me – the ‘hunter-gatherer’ (even though I’m female). It’s also made me so much more aware of the seasons and being connected to the landscape.
Amongst the sprouting shoots and leaves in the woodland and hedgerows, delicious and incredibly nutritious things can be found that will make culinary creations uniquely flavoursome.
There are so many things to collect and use, from wild primrose flowers which I crystallise and use to adorn sweets and cakes, to a multitude of savoury finds. Spring and early summer growth of dandelions, nettle shoots and wild garlic can be gathered to create the most amazing and refreshing dishes, as well as salads, soups, stews, sauces, teas and even crisps!
Wild garlic is one of the stand outs for me when it comes to flavour. It’s found mainly in damp, ancient woodlands, shady lanes and under some hedgerows. You can usually smell it before you see it and like bluebells, it prefers slightly acidic soils so if you know of a bluebell wood, wild garlic is likely to be there too, sometimes as a carpet of white and green anytime from March to June.
Of course, you should get permission from the landowner before picking anything, and if you gather wild garlic it’s important not to uproot the plant but just pick a few leaves from each stem, being careful not to strip too many, so the plant can re-grow.
It’s lovely in so many recipes, including Boggle Lane’s Gourmet Pesto Poulet dish, (plump chicken breasts bathed in pesto then slowly braised).
You can also use it in sandwiches, dressings and finely chopped as a garnish, or add some butter and make your own ‘wild’ garlic bread.
Garlic is widely known for its antibacterial, antibiotic and possibly antiviral properties, and it contains vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and copper. It’s even been shown to help reduce blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.
I’ve been astounded by the nutritional benefits of foraged foods and the more I learn about them, the more they surprise me.
The Wolds really is a feast for all the senses and taking a stroll across its landscape can feed much more than just your soul!
For more information visit: www.bogglelane.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org