The latest news from the Scottish Wild Harvests Association - including Members' Gathering in September!
Scottish Wild Harvests Association: sustainably using the wealth of the wild

Summer news from SWHA

Here we are in the full swing of the early summer harvest. The warm sun after the long cold, damp winter means that everything is in blossom at once in abundance. The hedgerows are white with hawthorn, crab apple and Queen Anne’s Lace (a much nicer name than 'cow parsley'), and the trees are in leaf. The elderflowers are finally appearing, a month later than usual, which means midsummer is upon us, time for elderflower fritters and sparkling cordial.

The Scottish Wild Harvest Association continues to go from strength to strength with many new members and lots of interest from journalists and chefs. The current trend for using ‘all things wild’ in restaurants across the country is flourishing and it seems every Sunday magazine has recipes from a celebrity chef using foraged plants. It is heartening that so many people are getting out into the countryside and learning about plants, trees and fungi. It also means that people need to know how, and what, to pick and there is a new niche market for forage leaders and bushcraft courses. Many of our members run foraging courses so please contact us if you wish to find out if there is one in your area.

The main aim of SWHA is sustainable foraging: remember to only take what you need, pick from a variety of areas not just one patch, that patch could be the only nectaring site for a colony of butterflies! Rather than taking a chef's idea and going out to harvest the plant specified, take a walk and see what plants are adundant and then see what recipes can be adapted for that plant. Often plants specified in news articles are rare and shouldn’t be over gathered they are often essential food for bees and pollinating insects.

SWHA members are developing a code of conduct for sustainable foraging, and we ask that people respect existing codes such as the Scottish Wild Mushroom Code.
Jools Cox, SWHA Chair
Photo of Fort Bob at Cairn o'Mohr winery

SWHA Gathering & AGM:
14-15 September 2013

Cairn o'Mohr Winery, Errol, Perthshire

This year the wild harvesters will be meeting, eating, and sharing produce and ideas at Cairn O’Mhor Winery, during the weekend of 14th and 15th September. There'll be discussions around sustainable harvesting; members' displays, goods and presentations; finding out who's doing what and what we all want SWHA to do next. There'll be a focus on the SWHA Code of Conduct, plus the formal AGM and election of office bearers for the coming year.

Camping among the elder trees and foraged food, drink and crafts – more details on the SWHA website soon! - to book your place email


Ingredient of the month:

Elderflower Fritters
Gather open, flat flower heads – best flavour is from flowers gathered in the morning. Avoid gathering from roadsides and farm edges where spraying may have taken place. Gently shake free of insects as you gather. Always pick from a selection of trees.
Prepare batter - 125gm plain flour or gram flour (gluten free) whisk into the flour 1 egg and 150ml milk, or half milk and half sparkling water (prosecco if feeling indulgent).
Heat a light vegetable oil in a frying pan, don’t let the oil get too hot. Test by dropping in a small drop of batter, it should bubble up immediately; if oil is smoking it's too hot!
Holding them by the stalk, dip flowers into the batter, fry until light brown, turn over gently, serve face side up.
Dust with icing sugar and serve with single cream.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly
Half fill a preserving pan with sharp green gooseberries. Just cover with water. Simmer until the gooseberries have burst into a soft puree. Drain overnight through a jelly bag or muslin. Measure the liquid. Put the juice and warmed sugar (800gm per litre) back into the preserving pan,boil until setting point is reached. Tie elderflower heads in a muslin bag (six elderflower heads per litre). Put into the jelly when it is almost at setting point and leave them there when you remove the pan and cool. Taste occasionally and extract the bag when the desired Muscat flavour is right. Pot in the usual way.
Dry any remaining flowers to use with lemon to make a tea to help ward off colds.

Slimming tip!
Cleavers, Galium aparine, Goosegrass, or Sticky Willy: call it what you will, but in the 16th century the juice from the young tips of this plant were used as a slimming aid. The herbalist John Gerard wrote ‘that women do usually make a potage of cleavers with a little oatmeal to cause lanknesse, and to keep them from fatnesse’.

Recipes from Jools

Flyer for the Handbook of Scotland's Wild Harvests

The Handbook
- always in season!

Our unique guide to sustainable foraging in Scotland is on sale at SWHA events, or email to order your copy now. Price £12.99.

The Carrot/Parsley Family

Foragers are often confused and wary of the lacy-leaved umbellifer species, and rightly so. Some of them, such as Hemlock (Conium maculatum), Hemlock Water-dropwort (Oenanthe crocata), Rough Chervil (Chaerophyllum temulentum), Fools Parsley (Aethusa cynapium), and Cowbane (Cicuta virosa) can be deadly! It is important to use a good identification guide such as Roger Phillips' Wild Flowers of Britain or Francis Rose's Wild Flower Key; better still go on a guided walk with an expert botanist.
However once you do know your umbellifers the sweet aniseed taste of Sweet Cicely seeds can enhance a sorbet, and the leaves used with rhubarb or gooseberry dishes reduce the amount of sugar required. The Chervils, Anthriscus caucalis and sylvestris can both be used in salads or used in sauces (see Miles Irving's Forager Handbook for recipes). Wild Angelica and Fennel seeds are also used as flavourings for desserts or sauces and the stems can be candied..

Photo of green woodworking tools, part-worked wood and a storm kettle, by Emma Chapman

A conference of coppicers

Coppice and green wood. Ancient crafts, simple tools, old skills with new applications. To get bulk material, plant up a new site with densely-spaced hazel – it'll be no good for nuts, not enough light, but perfect for a crop of straight, even poles. Cut it once every seven years, and, working with this native tree, you'll gradually create a cycle of habitats, with hordes of wildlife occupying every niche.

In Scotland, such areas are rare. Coppice workers find pieces of woodland here and there, assess the possibilities, negotiate with landowners about managing it. In some areas – especially the unique Atlantic hazel woods – it's best to manage very lightly if at all, leaving the trees for the lichens and the moss. And for some of the people I met in April, it's simply a case of foraging for sticks.

We were in Tombreck, by Loch Tay, brought together for a two-day conference on coppicing – a rare event indeed in Scotland. Our hosts were the Scottish Crannog Centre, who told us about underwater archaeology and the vast bulk of trees and small wood needed to create and maintain a crannog, and who showed us some of the areas of woodland that they're thoughtfully bringing into coppice management, to supply the events they run and the maintenance and development of their site. They are deeply committed to environmental best practice, and would like to certify their coppice products as local, ethical and Scottish. SWHA is helping with that, through the Scottish Working Woods label.

In two days with coppicers and green wood workers I discovered there's a big element of wild harvesting in what they do. They work with native species and habitats, for the love of it, wanting to produce something but in a way which can add to the wider ecology as well as taking away. They relish skills that take them outside and link them to the seasons. And they work with the land even if they don't own it – and forage when they have no land to manage. A few of them are members of SWHA already; more would be welcome!
Emma Chapman, SWHA Secretary
Logo of the Scottish Wild Harvests Association

Joining SWHA

The SWHA website has more information about what the Scottish Wild Harvests Association is about and how to join.
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