Green-fingered mother who spends 14 hours a week foraging reveals how she cooks nutritious and tasty meals for her family entirely from plants found near her house during lockdown
- Joanna Ruminska, 38, from Devon, forages her family’s food from near her home
- Spends 14 hours a week searching through forests for ingredients for meals
- Has been cooking nutritious meals for her family from the wild food in lockdown
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
A green-fingered mother who forages her family’s food claims she can cook tasty meals made entirely from plants found near her home even when lockdown panic-buying means supermarket shelves are empty.
Joanna Ruminska, 38, spends up to 14 hours a week searching the forests near her house in Plymouth, Devon for ingredients including mushrooms, elderflower and wild garlic.
The mother-of-two has been foraging since she was a child, but her interest in sourcing her food snowballed as she grew older and now more than half her family’s diet is now sourced from the countryside or plants she grows in her garden.
And with coronavirus stockpiling causing supermarket shelves and online retailers to lack everyday goods, she said the nation’s interest in foraging has skyrocketed – with people now sending her photos of plants they’ve found in their gardens to ask if they’re edible daily.
Joanna Ruminska, 38, from Devon, spends up to 14 hours a week foraging in the forests near her home and swears by the practice to cook inexpensive, tasty and nutritious meals for her family
The green fingered mother often searches for up to two hours a day in order to find the best ingredients, and uses foraged foods in almost all of her meals (pictured, Oyster mushroom pork chops)
The mother-of-two cleverly weaves the wild ingredients, including seaweed and wild garlic (pictured) into her family’s meals
The former teacher believes her family could survive from produce in the countryside and in the backgarden (pictured left, chicken of the Woods mushrooms and satay noodles and right, fried oyster mushrooms and wild garlic)
Former teacher Joanna, who was born in Poland and moved to the UK in 2006, said: ‘If the stores closed tomorrow and there were no deliveries, we could survive off the produce in the countryside and in our garden.
‘I’m lucky to live in walking distance of the forest and I can get all the ingredients there if I’m desperate.
‘I grew up in the Polish countryside and I’ve been foraging for as long as I can remember, but I’m the only one in the family who took it to the next level.
‘Over half of what my family and I eat is now sourced from our natural surroundings.
Joanna’s favourite foraged ingredient is wild garlic, which she uses in everything from focaccia and pizza to soup, pasta and stews (pictured, a wild garlic pizza)
The mother-of-two loves the diversity of wild garlic as a foraged ingredient, and regularly masks a pesto with the food (pictured, wild garlic pasta)
Joanna revealed she goes out to forage everyday to keep her pantry full, and will sometimes ‘make a shopping list’ before heading into the woods to pick the wild food (pictured left, wild garlic salt, and right oyster mushroom wraps)
‘I either forage the ingredients from woodlands near my house, make trips to the coast to for things like sea beet and seaweed, or grow certain vegetables and fruit which need cultivating in my garden.
‘I try and go out and forage everyday. It’s my exercise.’
She explained: ‘I grab a basket and sometimes I make a list like a shopping list, but instead of searching for the ingredients in the supermarket I go searching for them in the countryside.
‘I spend about two hours a day foraging, but if I go further afield it can be a full day out.
Joanna recommended those who are only just beginning foraging should aim to pick wild plants that they could find in their garden, such as dandelion and stinging nettles (pictured, dandelion root coffee cheesecake)
The mother-of-two will often use oyster mushrooms to replace meat in dishes (left, a wrap with the wild plant), and add wild garlic to flavour her meals (right, Roasted buckwheat with sea beets, wild garlic and capers)
Joanna regularly swaps chicken for mushrooms, and adds handpicked oyster mushrooms to her meals instead of steaks (pictured, oyster mushrooms with capers)
‘My daughters love to join because they go off looking for their favourite flowers, like elderflower.’
Joanna recommends beginners start with wild plants most people can find in their garden or on grass verges, such as dandelions and stinging nettles.
Her favourite foraged ingredient is wild garlic, which she uses in everything from focaccia and pizza to soup, pasta and stews.
Joanna also picks mushrooms such as ‘chicken of the woods’ to use as a meat alternative in noodle dishes and replaces steak with handpicked oyster mushrooms to create a vegetarian-twist on the classic steak and chips.
And it’s not just food! Joanna also recommends using wild flowers and plants to make tasty drinks, including nettle infused tonic (left) and elderflower cordial (right)
The mother-of-two said that while bars and pubs are closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, people could craft cordials with wild plants at home (pictured, nettle cordial)
Joanna will often spend hours a day searching for the ingredients close to her house, and believes she could live on the wild food if supermarkets closed permanently (right, seaweed, and left, wild garlic)
And now bars are closed she recommends people create their own tipples from foraged plants, such as stinging nettle beer, elderflower champagne and redcurrant gin.
Joanna advises beginners to stay clear of mushrooms though, because of the number of poisonous varieties and the expertise required to differentiate between similar looking types.
She said: ‘I’ve had a 400 per cent increase interest in foraging since the start of lockdown – I’m getting a stream of messages from strangers.
‘I think people are noticing the gaps on the shelves at supermarkets and thinking about how they can source certain ingredients in different ways.
The mother-of-two has been receiving a stream of messaging from strangers amid the lockdown, with many people looking to forage for the first time
Joanna revealed there has been a ‘surge of interest’ in foraging since the coronavirus pandemic began
‘I’ve had lots of messages on my Instagram @incredible_edible__ from people who have sent me photos of plants in their back gardens, asking me if they can eat things they’ve found.
‘I’m a bit apprehensive about identifying things by photo as I don’t want to mislead people, you have to feel and smell a plant to properly identify it.
‘I’m happy about the surge in interest though. There are so many tasty foods on people’s doorsteps that they don’t know about.’
When Joanna isn’t foraging food to put on the dinner table, she is sourcing wild greens and seaweed for high-end London restaurants in her job at Totally Wild UK, where she also runs foraging courses.
Recipe for Totally Wild’s Beef Wellington
· Beef Joint – 500g
· 500g pre-made puff pastry
· 250g chestnut mushrooms – finely chopped
· 2 onions – finely chopped and diced
· 250 wild mushroom – I used dryads saddle (if you don’t have wild just double up on chestnut mushroom
· 100g nettle – finely chopped
· 100g wild garlic – finely chopped
· a knob of butter
· Heat up a pan on the stove until it’s smoking hot
· Brown the beef on each side in the super-hot pan – about 1 minute each side
· Place on an oven tray and bake in the oven for 25 minutes gas mark 7 or 180C
· Remove from the oven and leave to chill on the side
Whilst the meat is cooling…..
· Melt a knob of butter in the same pan you used to brown the meat (reusing the juices)
· fry off the mushrooms and onion until fully browned, about 10 minutes
· Add the finely diced nettles and cook for a further 5 minutes
· Remove from the heat and place in a wide bottom bowl to cool
Whilst that’s also cooling
· Blend the wild garlic to a smooth paste
Bringing it all together….
· Layout the puff pastry on the none-stick paper
· Place the cooled beef on top of the puff pastry in the centre
· Spread the wild garlic paste over the top of the beef as layer 1
· Next spread the cooled mushroom and nettle over the top of the garlic paste (try to cover the sides aswell)
· Fold the puff pastry over the top of the beef and fold in the sides so that the beef is fully covered
· Bake the whole lot in the oven for 45 minutes at gas mark 8 or 180C
Remove the wellington and let the meat rest for about 20 minutes, cut open and enjoy with roast potatoes and some red wine gravy – YUM
The mother-of-two revealed that the best time to look for most plants is midday, when flowers have opened (pictured)
She says the best time to look for most plants is midday when the flowers have opened, making them easier to identify, while mushrooms are best foraged early in the morning before they’re snapped up by other people.
The mother said: ‘Some people I speak to and teach are quite sceptical about foraging initially.
‘I might mention nettle soup and they’ll smirk, but almost always they quickly come around to the idea.
Joanna relies on ingredients such as oyster mushrooms (right) and dandelions (left) in over half of her family’s meals
The mother-of-two conceded that foraging is ‘more time-consuming’ than trips to the supermarket, but said it was ‘very relaxing’ and ‘more enjoyable’ than going to the supermarket
‘When you tell them you can just eat your weeds instead of getting stressed about them, it makes sense.
‘Foraging is more time-consuming than going to the supermarket but it’s time better spent.
‘It’s enjoyable because you have to slowdown and observe your natural surroundings – it’s very relaxing in that way.’
What food to forage and what should be avoided
Foraging is the activity of finding, gathering and harvesting wild foods – for free.
– Seek permission before foraging and do some research – in some areas, plant species will be protected.
– Pick areas with a plentiful supply and never strip an area completely. This could damage the species in the long run.
– Leave enough food for wildlife and avoid damaging habitats.
– Don’t pick protected species or cause permanent damage
FIVE THINGS TO START FORAGING
Nettles: Nettles are an easy plant to start foraging, because of their ease to identify. They will be tastiest in spring and best when the tops are young and pale green. As the summer continues, they will get tougher and more stringy. Never pick when they are in flower. Cooking will remove the sting.
Wild garlic: Wild Garlic can be found close to streams and rivers. Foragers should pick young leaves from March onwards. Use their little white flowers to add a garnish.
Elderflowers: Elderflower can be found in late May to early July, with their most common use in cordial.
Blackberries: Easy to identify and delicious in crumbles and other desserts, blackberries are best found in the autumnal months.
Sweet chestnuts: Best found in the autumn, sweet chestnuts are perfect for pestos and stuffings
MONTH-BY-MONTH FORAGING – WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR EACH MONTH
January – chickweed, common sorrel, nettle and wild chervil
February – alexanders, mushrooms, nettles, chickweed and wild garlic
March – green spears
April – wild garlic, garlic mustard and cow parsley
May – lime, sorrel and chickweed.
June – pineapple weed, honeysuckle and elderflower.
July – bilberries and wild strawberries.
August – elderberries and blackberries.
September – hawthorn berries, rosehips and elderberries.
October – hazelnuts, damsons and walnuts.
November – oyster mushrooms, chickweed, navelwort, winter chanterelles
December – mussels, cockles, marsh samphire and sea beet.
WHAT NOT TO FORAGE
In order to stay safe and avoid eating anything which could be potentially dangerous, foragers should always be 100 per cent sure that what they’re eating is what they think it.
Anyone foraging should try a small amount first before diving into a bowlful of wild food
HIGHLY TOXIC – Potentially life threatening
Cortinarius Speciossimus, Fools Parsley, Yew, Deadly Nightshade
TOXIC – Likely to cause serious discomfort or illness
Lords and Ladies, Dog Mercury, Suphur Tuft, Yellow Stainer, Panther Cap
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