Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Living off the Land: It's Amazing What Can Be Foraged If You Know Where to Go, Writes William Skidelsky

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Living off the Land: It's Amazing What Can Be Foraged If You Know Where to Go, Writes William Skidelsky

Article excerpt

Fergus Drennan is a professional forager. He lives in Whitstable, Kent, and spends his time scouring hedgerows, estuaries and fields for things to eat. He calls himself a vegetarian--though he does occasionally eat meat, so long as it is meat he has come across himself. In other words, he eats roadkill. Drennan has salvaged foxes, owls, badgers and squirrels (among other things) from roadsides. Foxes and squirrels are tasty, he says, though he has reservations about owls and badgers (which tend to taste "urinal"). But mostly he concentrates his efforts on plants, mushrooms and seaweed.

This past week, I spent a day foraging with Drennan. We started off in Canterbury. He led the group--there were four of us--to a small area of scrubland next to the train station and started plucking leaves from various unpromising-looking weeds. He kept up a running commentary as he went: "This one is delicious in salads, although it's pretty bitter; this one is good stewed with meat." At one point he uncovered some eye-wateringly bitter rocket (urban areas are full of it, apparently).

Next we headed for a small river--the Stour--where Drennan fashioned rods from the stalks of Japanese knotweed. These he baited with mackerel given to him by a fishmonger. None of us caught any fish, or had so much as a bite (we were after pike). In fact, some of us had trouble getting our bait in the river. I failed to clear the tall knotweed stalks on the bank, and another member of our group lodged his mackerel, spectacularly, in a tree on the far side. …

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