Bounty on the Beach

A photo of a group taking part in Beach Foraging Skillshare with Tony Wilson

Having just joined the Transition team, I am enjoying getting to grips with the seemingly infinite diversity of strands of work that we do. Last week’s University of St Andrews Orientation Week made for a perfect if exhausting showcase. I love cooking and I am always looking for some unusual (and free) ingredients so one of my favourite events was the Beach Food Forage Skillshare session, led by Tony Wilson.

Before we set off, Tony had a few warnings for wannabe foragers like us – make sure you know your edible plants and animals from the poisonous ones, obey the law, and always check the tides! In a two-hour leisurely stroll along and above the East Sands Beach that followed, we discovered a veritable bounty of edibles, including at least 15 species of plants and 5 types of shellfish. I do venture out for a forage now and again myself but this was quite a surprise even for me!

Tony had a serving suggestion for pretty much every item on the list and I thought I’d share a couple of things I am planning to try out myself.

Burdock leaves at East Sands

Burdock is well known in the UK as an ingredient in the oldie worldie Burdock and Dandelion drink, but these days not many remember about use of its edible roots as a vegetable. Japanese are one nation who still regularly use it in cooking though, so much so that they bread plant cultivars which produce more tender and substantial roots than plants found in the wild here. I will definitely be looking into ordering some Japanese burdock seeds to try out next year – and I already found some awesome recipes!

Tony Wilson showing a Sugar Kelp

Seaweeds are an obvious foraging choice at the seashore and we have had a look at a couple. I particularly liked the idea of sugar kelp which can be found at low tide on the outer edges of the rocky shore. His snack recipe simply involved cutting it into squares and stir-frying with a dash of soy and sesame oil. It may be a bit of a challenge getting the ingredients though! We have been warned by Tony to avoid any sad looking specimens, detached from their home at the rocks and conveniently deposited on the beach, as they are likely to be past their use-by date. Probably best leave it seaweed foraging till next summer, when water is likely to be a tad warmer and wading in the sea more pleasant!

Tansy flower and leaf

Something I can try right now though is a Tansy-flavoured pancake, originally a traditional Cumbrian Easter dish. I have just collected some leaves from Tansies planted around the Albany Halls of residence and will have a go at this recipe by Eat Weeds. (not to be confused with Tansy, our lovely Skillshare Coordinator🙂

So here it is – some intriguing new ingredients – and with zero carbon footprint to boot!

Tony had a few warnings for wannabe foragers like us – make sure you know your edible plants and animals from the poisonous ones, obey the law, and always check the tides!

The session certainly has whet my appetite for joining in with more of the Transition Skillshare workshop and maybe even running one…