Wild Eating: An Interview with Fergus the Forager
Wild food experimentalist and educator Fergus Drennan is coming to Betteshanger. Regularly appearing on radio, television and in magazines, Fergus has become a wild food guru and foraging icon. Now, he’s bringing his expertise to the Park for a set of exclusive workshops as part of Deal Music & Arts at Betteshanger (Sunday 30 June).
We had the chance to catch up with Fergus for a quick Q&A to give you a sneak peek into the world of foraging (and what to expect at his workshop).
Q: So Fergus, what got you into foraging?
Q: You’ve been foraging for quite a while now – what expert advice can you offer someone who’s new to foraging?
A: Don’t graze like a goat. It goes without saying really, but make sure you take your time in identifying the wild plants you forage and check it’s also in an edible condition before cooking and eating. Plants can mature, even if you keep them in the fridge so it’s important to consider condition as well as identification.
There are some really great plant ID guide books out there, and more recently apps. While these resources can be useful, I do strongly advise going out with someone who has experience of foraging. That doesn’t necessarily mean spending money. There are plenty of free workshops and foraging walks you can make the most of.
Q: You’ve mentioned there are many foraging resources out there –are there any you’d recommend?
A: Yes, absolutely. Plants for a Future is a fantastic tool that holds data on over 7000 wild plants, with information about their uses, be it for cooking, herbal uses or dying in textiles. They also include cautions, if you need any protective items to collect or prepare the plant, or whether it’s toxic. It’s definitely my go-to resources for identification.
I’ve also used The Flower Checker, which allows you to upload three photos of your foraging find so a botanist can help you identify the plant. There is a cost per identification, but it’s good for getting answers fast.
Q: What excites you about foraging at Betteshanger?
A: I think it’s really exciting because it’s new. I’ve had years of foraging in my local habitat, so it’s great to venture out into new places, and Betteshanger has a wonderfully unique habitat – considering its heritage as a former colliery.
Only last time I visited, I found a rare species of wild rose, with an exquisite aromatic quality. The Park also has an abundance of Reindeer Moss, it’s everywhere! Betteshanger is full of unexpected and delightful discoveries.
Q: What should people expect from a Foraging with Fergus workshop?
Bonus Question: What’s your favourite foraged snack?
Q: That’s not a fair question – you can’t expect me to pick just one. I would say I have a favourite category of foraged snacks. I absolutely love succulent flowering stem cores. Delicious Cow Parsley, bristly Ox Tongue, wild carrot and common dock – all are mouth-wateringly delicious with hummus. These hidden gems are only around for a couple of weeks in the Spring, so I always look forward to Spring time.
Q: Finally, how can people find out more about you?
Our exclusive workshops with Fergus the Forager provide the perfect introduction to searching for and cooking wild foraged food. Sample the flavours of nature at Betteshanger Park and book your place today.