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Foraging for wild herbs and edible plants in the countryside of South Wales - xobba.com | xobba.com

Foraging for wild herbs and edible plants in the countryside of South Wales

David Bellamy

David Bellamy
Photo by Feggy Art
Back in 1998, I was compared with botanist David Bellamy when I was a regular presenter for two series of the TV magazine programne In Full View. I was shown out and about in the countryside of South Wales where I was doing a spot of foraging and talking about the edible plants  and herbs that I found.

The series that was broadcast on BBC Choice, which was later renamed as BBC3, was also presented by Amy Charles, and she always made some humorous comments when introducing me to viewers. It was Amy that likened me to David Bellamy. She also said that I was “munching my way” around the countryside, which was true because I would often eat a leaf or flower of the plant I had found.

 Dandelion and Burdock

Cameraman Steve Jenkins and I would take a drive out to random locations around Cardiff and I would get out and have a look around to see what I could discover. There was no script or planning as such and I used to ad-lib whatever I wanted to say about my discoveries.

 

Wood Avens

In one episode we went to some local woodland where, as well as finding Wood Avens (Geum urbanum) or Herb Bennet, I also came upon Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) and Burdock (Arctium lappa) plants that were growing very near to each other in a forest clearing.

Dandelion and Burdock Pop


Naturally I had to mention the very popular soft drink so many of us had as children. Dandelion and Burdock was one of my favourite types of pop when I was a boy.

I explain about some of the uses that the Dandelion has as an edible plant and then go on to the Burdock. I talk about how the Burdock is regarded as a very Yang herb in oriental Macrobiotics, a philosophical dieting method based around understanding the opposition of Yin and Yang forces in the universe, in an effort to attain balance and good health for practitioners.

 

Down by the riverside

In another episode of In Full View we went to the riverbank of the River Ely in the village of St Fagans. Here I found Cow Parsley or Wild Chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris), which is edible, but also discovered the Hemlock Water Dropwort (Oenanthe crocata) that was growing close by and is deadly poisonous but looks somewhat similar with its flowering umbels and divided foliage.

Monkshood

The very toxic Monkshood or Wolfsbane (Aconitum napellus) was growing on the riverbank too and I point out how dangerous this plant is as well. When foraging it is as important to know what plants you cannot eat as knowing the ones that are good for you.

Goutweed or Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria) is another plant in the Apiaceae, the family which includes both the Cow Parsley and the Hemlock Water Dropwort, that I found growing at the location. Goutweed is not only good for treating the ailment it is named after, but also makes a delicious green vegetable if cooked like spinach.

Meadowsweet

I found some Meadowsweet (Filipendula vulgaris) as well, and describe how wonderfully fragrant this herb is.

Brooklime

In another episode of In Full View we return to the riverbank in St Fagans but this time I find a patch of Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga). This edible plant with pretty blue flowers often grows in ponds and streams and is a good salad plant.

As well as Brooklime, I discover some Great Plantain (Plantago major), and explain how this edible weed became known as the “White Man’s Foot” to some of the American Indian tribes who had noted that it grew wherever the settlers went.

I describe how you can make Elderflower fritters from the flower-heads of the Elder (Sambucus nigra), a bush I find growing at the side of the road. You can also use Elder flowers for tea and to make wine or Elderflower champagne.

Hops

I spot some Hops (Humulus lupulus) growing in a hedge and talk about this edible plant that is more well known for being an important ingredient in beer-making. I describe how it can be used to make a “Hop pillow” which could be used to help get a good night’s rest.

Wild Thyme by the seaside

In another episode of In Full View I went down to the seashore at Ogmore to see what I could find there. At the top of the beach I came upon some Wild Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) and I thought of the traditional folk song that was rumoured to have been written by Robert Burns but was actually penned by Francis McPeake. The song Wild Mountain Thyme is also known as Purple Heather and Will You Go Lassie, Go.

I sing a few lines from it: “And we´ll all go together, to pick wild mountain thyme, all around the blooming heather, will ye go, lassie, go.”

Food For Free

I also have a look in Richard Mabey’s Food For Free to see what he has to say in his classic book on foraging. I read some lines from it. It is my favourite book on foraging and the one that helped me learn a lot of my knowledge on the subject.

On another part of the beach I discover some Scurvy Grass (Cochlearia officinalis). This was a plant that was once used by sailors to help them not get scurvy, a disease caused by lack of Vitamin C.

Finally I talk about the Wild Carrot (Daucus carota), the ancestor of the cultivated carrot, and an edible plant to be found in grassy places such as at the top of a beach.

I rescued all these old files of my TV appearances from some VHS video tapes that had been left in a cupboard at my father’s house. They demonstrate that I have a good knowledge about edible wild plants and I am hoping I can use them to help me find more work as a TV presenter.

Copyright © 2013 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

 

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  • Article by Bard of Ely

    avatar Born in Cardiff, South Wales, Steve Andrews lived there until 2004 when he relocated to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. He used to live on the Ely housing estate and Big Issue magazine, in which he had a regular column, dubbed him the Bard of Ely making reference to his talents as a singer-songwriter, poet and performer. He is also a writer, journalist, author, public speaker and naturalist. In 1998 he worked as a TV presenter for two series of In Full View on BBC Choice. He is the author of Herbs of the Northern Shaman (O-Books 2010) and Hummadruz and a Life of High Strangeness (Amazon Kindle), as well as having contributed to Tenerife News and the Tenerife Sun newspapers and Kindred Spirit, Prediction, Feed Your Brain. Living Tenerife, Permaculure and the National Federation of Occupational Pensioners magazines. Bard of Ely has performed at the Glastonbury and Green Man festivals and was a compère for the Avalon stage at Glastonbury in 2002 and 2003. He has had his songs released on many independent labels including Double Snazzy, Very Good Records, Pink Lemon and DMMG Records. He is written about and quoted in books by several fellow authors, and is in Fierce Dancing, Last of the Hippies (Faber & Faber) and Housing Benefit Hill (AK Press) by C.J. Stone, in The World's Most Mysterious People by Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe (Hounslow), Real Cardiff by Peter Finch (Seren), The Trials of Arthur (Element) by Christopher James Stone and Arthur Pendragon, and in The Remarkable Life of Leonard Cohen (Omnibus) by Anthony Reynolds.
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