Because beverages are so very ethnobotanical…. I will be one of the scientists at the ‘Beverages, bubbles and brews’ pub quiz at Chelsea Physic Garden in May, along with forensic botany expert Dr Mark Spencer, Lush catering’s head chef and garden experts from the garden. Starting with a sunset walk around the garden guests will have four courses of food, drinks and questions. Bookings are via Chelsea Physic Garden events
Just out in ‘The World Atlas of Street Food’ is a recipe for Snow fungus and pear soup, a winter drink, in a piece I wrote about Beiyuanmen in Xian a market at the end of the Silk Road that brims with flavour from ancient trade routes . I also wrote a few drinks recipes for ‘Kew’s Teas, Tonics and Tipples’.
A beautiful loch and fantastic location for filming swimming and foraging. I spent a couple of days exploring this loch by swimming and looking at its waterside plants. Its waters are tinted dark by tannin making it a super mirror for the sky. Tucked amongst trees and in the lee of the mountains it is also a little sheltered from winds. We wrapped up filming with a few foraged cocktails made with local gin. It will appear as a little segment on lochs in a series on wildlife.
I’ve been invited to the Norwich Science Festival where I will be talking about juniper and gin , and also running a workshop exploring some of the other botanicals used to make gin. Expect plants, tastes, and aromas. At the end of October when a lot of our local plants are getting ready to be outdoors in all weathers is a good time to take a look at plants captured in gin, and enjoy a little armchair travel to warmer times and farflung places.
Swim outdoors and you’ll encounter wildlife. Creatures and plants inhabiting the water are one of the most distinctive differences between swimming outdoors and swimming indoors. They can be a source of delight and sometimes a worry. I write a column for Outdoor Swimmer on wildlife for swimmers, exploring what to look out for, where to look for it and how to enjoy it. Illustrations are created by Alice Goodridge, a swimmer who is also a talented artist.
Lesser Weever Fish
It was fun making Cocktails at Inshriach London launch till dawn in a leafy glade in Bow. Summer heat had provided plenty of blossomy ingredients, and we had a couple of types of chillies in some cocktails too. Everything was laced with juniper picked by the banks of the Spey only a short walk across the field to the Inshriach still where it gets turned into gin.
Here is a feature on swims with nearby distilleries I wrote for the Outdoor Swimming Society on some of my favourites around Britain and Ireland. I have also added these swims to Wild Swim Map in this collection of Swims & then gin (or whisky)
People who knew I ran workshops and training sessions for distillers looking to find and learn about botanical ingredients kept asking if I would run a foraging day that they could come to. Time off is precious so the venue is fun and weatherproof as well as an edible playground. Get in touch for details.
I have been invited to speak at the symposium ‘Tackling over-collection of wild plants: is horticulture a conservation problem or solution? ‘ at the International Congress for Conservation Biology 2017. I will be talking about ‘Horticultural propagation versus wild collection for commercially viable yields’ .
An overview of what I will be talking about is:
With profit as the driving focus of trade in plants the cost of cultivation in comparison to the cost of wild collection is an important consideration when evaluating existing supplies or projecting future supplies of botanical ingredients and products. Not all plants are easy to cultivate and obstacles to cultivation can be presented at the initial stage of propagation. Agriculture is dominated by domesticated plants that have been differentiated from their wild ancestors via trait selection by people cultivating them. Ease of propagation is an important component of cultivation. However many wild-collected plants in trade are not replaceable by domesticated cultivars that are easy to propagate. Modern technology and advances in scientific knowledge on propagation are increasing the repertoire of plants that can be cultivated. However factoring in the costs of propagation can make cultivation an unviable supply route from a commercial perspective. The case for evaluating commercial viability on a species by species basis is illustrated by contrasting examples of undomesticated vascular and non-vascular plants, propagated by different means, which are traded worldwide from both cultivated and wild-collected sources.