Go foraging in Dartmoor this summer

Posted on 01/07/2016

We’ve all watched in awe as the likes of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and River Cottage chef Gill Meller rustle up another dish to die for using food ingredients gathered, quite literally, in their own backyard. What you might not have realised is just how widespread and accessible so many ingredients are for many popular dishes as well as the more esoteric offerings from our celebrity chefs – there’s so much more to foraging than picking blackberries in the Autumn.

Go foraging in Dartmoor

The second in a seasonal series of foraging walks created in partnership with Sidetracked magazine, the summer collection focuses on Dartmoor and its landscape of stunning views.

Recommended by International Mountain Leader and expedition chef, Kieran Creevy (@kierancreevy), the collection includes a range of walks of varying lengths and difficulty levels.

Each route has been handpicked by Kieran for its wild edibles – from flowers to berries and herbs.

Explore and download the routes in this collection here:

Route 1: Haytor quarry, tramway and rocks

Route 2:
Brent Moor

Route 3: Princetown to Higher Hartor Tor

Route 4: Dartmeet to Laughter Tor

Check out our spring foraging collection, which took Kieran and his team to Wales. See the Wales foraging collection here.
Foraging recipe: Summer
Go foraging in DartmoorBy Kieran Creevy, International Mountain Leader and expedition chef. 

Ingredients (serves four)
4 x 150 g cod fillets, skin on. Good alternatives for this dish would be; Mackerel, Pollock, Sea bass
2 double handfuls bilberries. If unripe replace with fresh gooseberries - available locally
4-6 tbsp caster sugar
1 stalk rhubarb, chopped into small chunks
2 handfuls fiddlehead fern tips (tightly curled, green only, washed and dried)
100g butter
2-3 handfuls sowthistle leaves, washed and dried
50g hazelnuts
Using ViewRanger while out foraging1 tbsp whole spices (e.g. Mix of some of the following: Grains of paradise, coriander seeds, timut pepper, telicherry pepper, fennel seeds, black cardamom)
Cider vinegar

Stainless steel, spun iron or cast iron pan for preference
Wooden spoon, knife and fish slice if needed
Food canisters

Season the fish fillets with salt and a little pepper.

Heat the pan to medium/hot.

Go foraging in Dartmoor

Add the spices and toast until fragrant.

Add 1 tbsp sugar and sufficient cider vinegar to cover the pickling ingredients.

Simmer for 1 minute.

Place the pickling ingredients in a food canister and pour over the liquid. Cover and leave to pickle.
Clean the pan, return to the heat and add the gooseberries, 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp water.

Cook until the gooseberries split, taste and add extra sugar if required. NB don't make the compote too sweet as it will interfere with the overall dish. You want to retain some tartness.

Go foraging in Dartmoor

When compote is ready, place in an insulated food canister.

Clean the pan, return to the heat and melt a generous knob of butter.

Place the fish skin side down and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Flip over, cook until the centre of the fillets are still translucent.

Remove from the pan to a dish, cover with a square of tinfoil or parchment paper and leave to rest for 2 minutes.

While the fish is resting, toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan, when toasted, pour into a container or bowl and sprinkle over 1 tbsp of caster sugar.

To serve:
Spoon some gooseberry compote onto each dish, place the cod fillets on top and ppoon over the brown butter sauce. Add the sowthistle salad leaves, pickle and hazelnuts to the plates and serve.

Please note the byelaws in place to protect Dartmoor National Park, specifically byelaw 8 regarding fires:

No person shall light a fire on the access land, or place or throw or let fall a lighted match or any other thing so as to be likely to cause a fire. This byelaw shall not prevent the lighting or use in such a manner as not to cause danger of or damage by fire of a properly constructed camping stove or cooker.” More information can be found here
Please forage responsibly. If you chose to cook in the great outdoors, please observe the following guidelines:
Please note that most land in the UK is under private ownership or owned by a state body. Ask permission before foraging on someone else’s property. Familiarise yourself with the law regarding wild plants as some species are protected due to being rare, fragile, under threat or form a vital part of the ecosystem.
Cooking on an open fire:
1. You either need permission to have an open fire or have checked with local regulations.
2. Only use dead wood, driftwood, or wood that has already been felled. DO NOT cut branches from living trees.
3. A byelaw prohibits the lighting of open fires within Dartmoor National Park. However, properly constructed camping stoves or cookers are allowed to be lit within the park. 
General advice for foraging
Most land is under private ownership or owned by a state body and The Theft Act 1968 outlaws the picking for commercial purposes of mushrooms, flowers, fruit or foliage from any land not owned by the picker. Always ask permission before foraging on someone else’s property. Familiarise yourself with the law regarding wild plants, as some species are protected due to being rare, fragile, under threat or because they form a vital part of the ecosystem.
Identification and knowledge:
1. Know which plants, fruits and nuts are edible and how to correctly identify them. Do not consume unless you are 100% sure they are safe.
2. Only harvest if you can correctly identify the plant and the surrounding area is not contaminated.
3. Many plants are highly poisonous and can cause death if consumed. Many have poisonous look-a-likes.
4. It’s important to know which parts of each plant are edible.
5. Some plants are only edible after careful preparation e.g. cooking, washing, and removal of sections.
Sustainable Foraging: where, when and how:
1. Only pick when a plant is abundant.
2. Use sharp scissors for preference, or a sharp knife.
3. Only harvest in patches, as you need to leave plants for regeneration and its continued survival.
4. Try not to remove flower or seed heads unless sourcing these specifically. Plants form a vital part of the eco-system, and many animals, insects and other organisms rely on them for survival.
Some sources advise against eating fiddlehead ferns. We would advise that pregnant women and nursing mothers abstain from ingesting ferns. However, this is a wild edible that is eaten year round in Japan, and with the right preparation and occasional use it is unlikely to pose any risk. For more information check out Miles Irving’s The Forager Handbook or click here.

(Photos: Liz Seabrook)

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