Nothing raises the spirits like a foraging adventure. It takes us back to our long-lost roots, searching wild lands to bring home ingredients for dinner.
All over Europe you can find a fascinating range of edible plants, fungi and seafood – here are three hotels to stay in luxury, while gathering in the best of the crop.
Llys Meddyg: Newport, Wales
With a restaurant to rival its stunning Welsh scenery, Llys Meddyg is the ideal location for a wild forage. The arty, cleverly remodelled Georgian townhouse hotel prides itself on its seasonal menu, much of it foraged from Pembrokeshire’s rich, fertile environment.
Not only can you enjoy the fresh produce in the hotel itself, hotel owner and chef Ed Sykes and expert Don Law offer gastronomic strolls through beaches, rivers, woods and mountains galore on ‘foraging and feast’ courses.
Cook your freshly picked lunch outside on the countryside day course, where you’ll gather a feast of spring ingredients. Think wild garlic, nettles, goosegrass, primrose, dandelion, chickweed, wood sorrel, elderflower, sorrel, wild rocket and honeysuckle.
Opt for the seashore forage and you’ll be hunting along the coast for sea beet, seakale, razor clam and alexanders. The hotel even provides a day course on making the most of your wild foods; with tutelage from the hotel owners on preparing and cooking jarred fruits, preserves, pickles, jams and cordials.
Recipe to try: If you’re lucky enough to find one of nature’s best spring foods among the bluebells – wild garlic – give Riverford’s Wild Garlic and Potato Soup a try. The leaves add a subtle, tangy flavour to this quick and easy soup.
(Foraging tip: avoid Lily of the Valley – it looks similar, doesn’t smell of garlic and is toxic.)
Aherne’s Seafood Bar & Townhouse Hotel: Cork, Ireland
Aherne’s Seafood Bar & Townhouse Hotel is the place to go in Cork for fresh, locally-caught seafood. Lobster, oysters, crab, prawns, mussels, salmon, squid, sole… whatever the day’s catch is you’ll see it served up to A* gastro perfection.
The family-run hotel sits in the historic walled port of Youghal, with miles of sandy beaches on its doorstep. Head down to the rocks and gravel beds to pick up your own mussels, cockles and clams. If you’re a fan of brown shrimps, you’ll find them hanging round against sea walls and in larger rock pools.
Cork is also home to Atlantic Sea Kayaking; which runs a seaweed foraging trip in which expert guides supply seaweed tasting, either by kayak or walking along the coast. Learn the tastes and textures of kelp, carrageen moss and sea spaghetti while discovering their secrets and culinary uses.
Recipe to try: Playing with unusual ingredients like sea spaghetti can be fascinating – and delicious. Vegetarians will love this seaweed, ginger and carrot salad from The Guardian.