Foraging for wild foods at Orroland
By foraging expert Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods
In July 2014 we asked Mark Williams to come and tell us about the edible foods at Orroland. A team of adults and children ranging from 6-76 years old, we set off with a clink of glasses as we celebrated our departure with some of Mark's homemade elderflower champagne.
We took in the wildflower meadow then headed through woodland down to the shore, nibbling on a variety of leaves, petals and coastal foragables as we went. We discovered a wide range of edible treats and Mark squirrelled bits and pieces into his bottomless bag which he later included in the most amazing foraged lunch and cocktails. We loved our day.
Foraging at Orroland would add something really extra-special and unique to your stay and we highly recommend a guided forage as part of your holiday. We asked Mark to help us enthuse you about the wild foods in Orroland's natural store ...
Orroland offers an amazing range of tasty plants and fungi to both novice and improving foragers alike. Its wide diversity of habitats means there is lots to enjoy all year round. Being on the coast, the woods, hedgerows and meadows of Orroland enjoy the warming effects of the sea, allowing for more variety, longer seasons and bumper crops.
From as early as January wild garlic starts to shoot in the woods. It is really easy to identify, becoming a rich green carpet with thousands of stunning edible flowers by May. All parts are edible with a vibrant garlic / spring onion flavour - a great addition to soups, salads and tarts.
The edges of the woodland paths are home to hairy bittercress, an often overlooked (or even despised!) "weed" in gardens, but actually a delicious, peppery member of the mustard family that is nicer than rocket and a fantastic addition to vibrant spring salads.
Deeper in the woods, even more delicious plants await; wood sorrel. It forms a dense carpet of delicate 3-leaved "shamrocks" that can be eaten raw for a refreshing and surprising hit of apples and lemon. Great with fish or to add sparkle to a salad.
As spring fades to summer, some of the woodland plants get past their best for eating but Orroland's shoreline more than compensates with a range of succulent delights:
Much more common along the Orroland shore is sea radish. The leaves, flowers and young seed pods all have a wonderfully vibrant flavour of radish. Great in stir-frys.A few patches of sea kale thrive on the upper shore. Tender shoots, florets and flowers are all delicious, but please go gentle on these beautiful plants, taking just a little from each so we can enjoy their delightful clouds of honey-scented blossoms for years to come!
The exotic flavour of coriander hides in an innocuous looking grass that grows just above the high tide line. It is called sea arrowgrass and if you can tell it apart from the similar looking (but also edible) sea plantain, you are in for a treat - use it to garnish curries, stir-frys and salads - or just nibble it on the beach for an aromatic taste of the landscape around you.
At low tide all manner of shellfish including crabs, winkles and mussels, can be harvested from the rocks, but we don't recommend gathering them in summer as they tend to be spawning and underweight between May and September.
A vast range of seaweeds thrive on the Orroland shore - and all of them are edible, packed with vitamins and nutrition. Most are delicious too if you know what to do with them, especially the "truffle of the sea" - pepper dulse. This is a small brown seaweed that hangs from the rocks that are exposed when the tide is at least half way out. It has a surprisingly rich, earthy flavour, strong in umami and - as you might expect - a rich tang of the sea. Some people think it tastes of lobster!
Come autumn, the woods and hedgerows of Orroland once more become a "wild larder" as fruit and fungi start to appear. Elderberries bend the boughs and can be harvested by the bucket load for jams, sorbets, vinegars and wines.