DIRTY SWINES | A TALE OF THE FORAGER

A bush bursts into a violent rustle beside the road, it’s sudden voice almost tipping two Bradley adorned enthusiasts from their saddles. Screech… The side straddling racers draw to a stop. ‘Who goes there?’ The rather plumper, altogether more Lycra pinched member of the duo pronounces. ‘Arrr mmm co di mpt’, relays from the hedge. The skinnier cyclist, passing on the reign of his bike, approaches the now motionless foliage. ‘There’s a poor soul in here!’ He stoops down his neon Lycra bagging below his rump. ‘Hello?’ The bush once again chirps up and produces a dirty looking vagabond. ‘Nee too am’. The skinny racer steps back. ‘He’s without words the poor swine!’ Rooted to the keep of the two bikes the fatter racer looks over keenly. ‘He’s got berries Don!’ Don rightens his tour cap and plunges into the bush, dismissing our dirty guest. ‘There’s lots of them!’ His saggy arse now the only visible trace of him. ‘Have we got a bag or some… thinnng?’

Dirty Swines the forager bramble still life photograph | Pic-nik: A conversation of food

The forager has had a resurgence, casting aside its hermit roots and chutney making Granny badge. It is once again fine to scavenge, it is cool to scrimp from the roadside. A pang of pity echoes from deep inside… What a pity… The chance of meeting a grimy hermit in a hedge is behind us. The idea of bringing him home and sharing his fruits in exchange for lessons in elocution have gone. I’d planned to build him a den in the garden, or if he turns out to be female after a good wash, a Wendy house. Instead, now it’s a scrum down! You’re not just battling elbows with Nanny, everybody’s in the mix. I suggest shin pads on forearms and take a step ladder, you’re looking to get yourself over 5ft 9, that’s what your local competition will be averaging at. Then there’s the great outdoors to contend with as nature can be mean, it’s armed and ready, it’s on the look out for the unseasoned forager. So break out the Savlon because if you’ve beaten neighbouring Nanny to the hedgerow, then nature’s armoury will serve as your stiffest challenge. No shin pad will help you here… It’s wily… It can untuck a sock and work its way behind a shin pad… Nothing is impenetrable, even the denim of John Wayne would surrender to the might of some x out there! And even if you have managed to encase yourself in Adamantium, then nature’s little helpers will be sent out to buzz their way up your breathing hole and make you pay for your bounty.

Dirty Swines the forager bramble still life photograph | Pic-nik: A conversation of food

The battle for the berry aside, is it worth it? Stupid question, other than the odd sting and scratch it’s free and rarely is food free, so quietly yes. Quietly because… A true forager, the forager with the direct blood supply to our hermit of old, isn’t going to share their hunting ground, it’s sacred. So if you unlock a field of wild garlic, or fail to ignore a run of horseradish… Keep a lid on it… It’s competitive stuff… Don’t share your harvest lightly and at all measures try to keep the newly crazed cyclist away from your findings, they’ll only devastate your crop. Remember, foraging is new school and new school isn’t for the masses. Keep it solo, keep it raw, then you’re die hard!

Dirty Swines the forager bramble still life photograph | Pic-nik: A conversation of food

Oooops… Sweating carrier bag hanging from the hip, fruits a weighing heavy… What do I do with all these sloes? How long can you keep wild garlic? Other than the obvious, what else can I do with horseradish? Ha! Welcome to the world of foraging.