Not many would think of sand dunes and coastal car parks as being a haven for so-called ‘superfoods’, but you will probably find the incredible Sea Buckthorn growing very happily in these environments (although councils now use these tough shrubs to cover roundabouts and verges so you might be closer to a patch than you think). The berries are bright orange and always abundant, yet they are very delicate, full of juice and are guarded by vicious thorns and therefore seldom get picked by the casual forager. We reckon it is worth it though! Packed with vitamins and minerals, and with a mouth-puckering acidity that sees it compared to grapefruit, this fruit deserves far more credit than it currently gets. You can drink this juice smugly then, knowing you are only one of a few who have experienced its amazing citrus flavours and taken on the big hit of health-boosting goodness!
This juice will arrive to you super fresh - in fact, it will only be pressed and bottled on the day we send it out. This helps to preserve the nutrients and means the taste has not started to deteriorate, like so many bottled juices do. Drink it instead of your morning glass of grapefruit juice, or try it with a splash of sparkling wine for a Sea Bucks Fizz.
Yarrow is one of those plants that plenty will have heard of yet very few could pick out of a line-up. It's actually one of the easiest plants to identify in the UK, with its distinctive fronds splitting pleasingly from a central stem - the closest resemblance would be somewhere between dill and camomile. Great news for foragers then!
Ignoring its frequently reported medicinal qualities (for centuries, yarrow has been a mainstay of the hedgerow first aid kit for everything from menstrual cramps to nose bleeds) it has a pleasant bitterness that lends itself to a number of culinary uses. Before the introduction of commercially grown hops in the UK, yarrow was used as a bittering agent in beer brewing - it still is back at Forage Box HQ, where a demijohn or two are always bubbling away - and this bitterness can also be extracted in the form of a tea, should that be your thing. If you like your liquids more on the greasy side, you certainly can't go wrong with the inclusion of yarrow in buttery sauces alongside white meats or fish. Prefer your meals a little more plant-based? Try it finely chopped and added right at the last second to almost anything roasted in the oven.
As nature starts to think about shutting up shop for the year, foragers find themselves drawn to the coast to get their greenery hit, where plants that have evolved to cope with more extreme weather can still be found growing quite comfortably. Although a smaller selection of plants are found here, they tend to be found in greater numbers, and if the local council have inexplicably been round with a strimmer (don't get us started), then you will even find that most have a second wind and produce some lush, green, new growth right into Winter.
In this mix you can expect to find Sea Purslane, Sea Beet and Sea Aster. Discard any tough stems, give them a good rinse and go easy on the salt (but heavy on the oil/butter - you will thank us later) and what you are left with is a versatile, delicious green mix that can be enjoyed in a number of ways. All species included can be eaten raw as part of a salad, tossed into a stir fry, sauteed gently as a side green or even slapped on some toast for a lavish brunch.
As Summer fades away and the frantic scramble to make the most of nature's bounty takes hold, none is more fleeting a crop than mushrooms. Where fruit and seeds may line footpaths and spill out of hedgerows all over the country, one has to actively seek out wild mushrooms and it is elusiveness that gives them a special sort of desirability in the culinary world. Make no mistake though, even though they are harder to find, they still grow in great numbers and so can still be picked responsibly and sustainably - care must just be taken to not damage the mycellium (the delicate root network beneath the soil) where the fruiting bodies we recognise as mushrooms grow from when the conditions are right. In fact, if done properly, picking a mushroom is no more damaging to the parent 'plant' (fungi are obviously not plants) than plucking a ripe apple off a tree.
Chanterelles are one of those mushrooms that features heavily on plenty of menus. What you'll tend to find, however, is that these mushrooms are often imported from parts of the world where labour is exploited and workers will end up picking these golden beauties for absolute peanuts. You'll be pleased to hear that these chanterelles are from the UK and are therefore far better in terms of air-miles and working conditions. Enjoy them cooked lightly in butter or oil, perhaps with a dash of cream, some crushed garlic or a little sprinkle of herbs.
Lurking in the great jungles of bladderwrack found not-too-far down the beach will be this delicate, little seaweed, where it clings parasitically to its host plant just waiting for those in the know to come and make use of its hidden flavours. Nicknamed a number of things relating to its hair-like looks (use your imagination), it doesn't really look like much to get excited about. After carefully extracting it from its host plant, thoroughly rinsing it and drying it, you are left with brittle, powdery fronds that are packed with umami and truffle-y flavours that make this an incredible seasoning for a number of dishes.
Try it powdered and sprinkled over anything you would truffle - scrambled eggs, red meat, creamy pasta, risotto - and marvel at how something so slight and delicate can enhance savoury dishes in the way it does. Just a sniff of the open bag should start your culinary imagination going!
It may be that your packet comes with a few strands of the more robust bladderwrack in there too. As these two seaweeds live in harmony with each other, it is only natural that sometimes they find it hard to part company!This is nothing to worry about - it is perfectly edible, after all - but you may wish to discard these tougher pieces when enjoying Mermaids Hair.