Toby Gritten, chef and owner of the trio of Forage Inns freehouses spends most of his time at the pass at The Pump House in Bristol and The Bird In Hand at nearby Long Ashton, and is an obsessional forager, doing daily dawn raids on the hedgerows when walking his dogs Minnie and Scooby.
Toby says: ‘Since opening The Pump House ten years ago, foraging has had a big influence on our food and menus. We always try to use seasonal ingredients, sourced as locally as possible, so gathering things ourselves adds a whole new dimension.
‘After a disappointing St. George’s mushroom season (the worst I can remember) the summer has really kicked in. The hedgerows are full of dog roses and elderflower and the abundant blossom on fruit trees and berry bushes are a good sign of what’s to come later in the season. There’s plenty of wood sorrel in the local woodlands and the summer mushrooms and bracket fungus are starting to come through. Expect to see all of these and more featured on our menus at The Pump House throughout the year.’
Head chef at The Bird In Hand, Georgia Ashton, adds: ‘We use elderflowers in our strawberry dessert and as an accompaniment to fish. The possibilities are endless with this fragrant flower. We also find ways to bring out the earthy flavour of wild garlic to elevate our dishes. It’s great to offer a menu full of British, seasonal and foraged foods.’
Foraging for beginners
Tony Casey, head chef at The Redan Inn at Chilcompton in the Mendip Hills gives his pick of the best summer finds to forage for
‘We’ve just started foraging elderflowers from our tree in the garden to make cordial, vinegar, honey and capers from the berries.’
‘At The Redan we’re lucky to be surrounded by fields so I can forage for dandelions on the way to work, which we add to honey in a painstaking process, which results in a terrific product.’
Wild strawberries and meadowsweet
‘Wild strawberries have been hiding away at the end of the garden while one of my personal favourites is meadowsweet which we forage just a few hundred yards away from the pub.’
‘Great in pesto and oil. We pickle the flower buds before they flower and make capers from the buds after they flower. We also do a little fermenting with wild garlic.’