Fred Esgen talks us through the preparations to get ready…
It has been said that when the land loses its peasantry, the beat of its heart is never the same again.
So in these days of food security and allotment waiting lists it occurred to me recently that in the long gone days of my youth people were far more adaptable and self-sufficient than in today’s fast paced world. The woods , fields and streams of yesteryear were filled with all manner of good things that people could and did use as nutritious food. The good news is that all these things are still there, free for the picking for anyone who wishes to put his or her wellies on and go out and find them.
My last salad, for instance, consisted among other things of wild onions, jack by the hedge, dandelions, land cress and ransomes or wild garlic as it is sometimes called, and it is only early April.
There are other advantages too, such as picking everything in season. This means that all your food will have optimum freshness and high vitamin levels. There are no food miles either, only food minutes.
The physical effects of wandering off into the countryside for a food ramble are obvious as this type of exercise is incredibly good for you but it also gives you the emotional and mental well-being associated with living and eating in tune with nature and earths yearly cycle of food production. You also gain more control of your own life as you decide along with nature what you will eat and when, rather than have the supermarkets decide for you.
This bounty, of course, is greatest at harvest time in late summer and early autumn, with the such delicacies as blackberries, crab apples, elderberries, rose-hips, and mushrooms only a pick away. Still you will find that the natural world is very good at providing what is nutritionally needed for us human beings at any given time of year.
One must not forget the rich beneficence of the sea of course. Her wealth of mineral packed, healthy food offerings is seemingly endless. Fortunately living here on the East Devon coast this is never more apparent than in the summer when mackerel, bass and pollack abound. Though good things can be caught or picked from the shoreline at any time of the year, weather permitting. If your taste buds run to crustacea you can treat yourself to a free banquet whenever you feel a fishy mood coming on.
Moule mariniere prepared with de-bearded fresh mussels picked from clean unpolluted waters is hard to beat. I always steam mine in fresh herbs, garlic, olive oil and a splash of white wine.
For my last supper though, if it had to be a fish dish, I would plump for a luscious crab salad. Brown crabs can be bought very reasonably from the fishing boats that sell from the shore if you are willing to prepare it yourself and indulge in a little bit of fish heaven, marvelous!
© FCR Esgen