Traditionally, foraging calls to mind unkempt country lanes and bountiful nature, but did you know there’s so much wild food right under our noses in our city spaces too? While I forage in the best natural surrounds the city has to offer (like by the canal and in the woods) and the city has lots of expansive green spaces, there’s plenty to be found in the smaller, cultivated green spaces in town too – if you know where to look that is. I’ve posted recently about my East Lothian Autumn foraging adventures, and since then I’ve been keen to find out more. So one crisp, cold autumnal afternoon a few Sundays ago, we set off to the Century General Store on Montrose Terrace, Abbeyhill (which I posted about earlier this year) on a city foraging course to find out more.
The younger sibling to my local Marchmont store, Century General Store Abbeyhill has been open for almost a year, and the Edinburgh independent is looking to host more and more of these events; if I hadn’t already made my Christmas wreath (watch out for a DIY soon!) I would have definitely snapped up tickets for Pyrus Flowers’ workshop there next month. I love the spirit of collaboration the store represents – and if you don’t live near they’ve expanded their online shop with their beautiful wares too. But that’s enough gushing from me – back to foraging. The group met in the store and chatted about our varying foraging experiences, before – to my pleasant surprise – heading to our city foraging location: London Road Gardens. I would never have thought of heading somewhere so central, and so busy, to look for wild food but with our expert Anna and open minds, we set about our search.
Even in late Autumn, there were lots of different leaves that would make for a lively addition to salads – from chickweed to ribwort, young docken to hairy bitter cress. I was so surprised at just how much greenery was about, and we learnt about how to harvest nettles safely: grabbing the leaves confidently, and rolling them to break their stings before you eat them. You should ensure you don’t harvest nettles from near industrial areas as they absorb minerals easily, and you shouldn’t eat them when they’re in flower. Nettles are definitely something I’m keen to try foraging for myself when I’m feeling brave – as I have sensitive skin, sadly the stings tend to cause a bad reaction.
My favourite, as ever, was the hedgerow, with so much still to be found – even along the edges of the Gardens opposite the Georgian terraced houses. Hawthorn berries can be tricky to pick, and their spikes can even be deadly – so always make sure you’re carrying an antiseptic wipe if you intend to forage these. That said, they are well worth the effort expended. Having soaked up all of Anna’s foraging knowledge we headed back to the store with our finds, and had a well-earned cup of coffee.
It was at this point we had to make our apologies as we were already late to a friend’s wedding drinks – so sadly we missed the next, and probably my favourite part: cooking! The lovely folks at the Century General Store were kind enough to package up some of the makes for us to sample and even take them to our local store and I have to say – they were delicious! Hawthorn tapenade (like a ketchup), elderberry balsamic (the very last of the berries are on the bare trees now) and nettle kimchi are three things I’m now desperate to try my own hand at next Autumn, and even now at the tail end of the season. The course opened my eyes to what’s truly in front of us in our urban spaces, as well as exposing me to a whole host of new ways to use my foraging finds. I hope it’s given you some inspiration too!
Thanks to the Century General Store for inviting me (and Al!) on the course for the purposes of review. As ever all thoughts and love of wild food, the seasons and excellent Edinburgh independent businesses entirely my own!