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Picking elderflowers for cordial, scouring the hedgerows for blackberries in early autumn and picking sloes in October are seasonal activities for the keen cook. But recently there's been a surge in foraging enthusiasm, with wild and lesser-known ingredients popping up on menus nationwide. To see what all the fuss is about, I hopped on a train to Keyhaven in the New Forest for a foraging walk with expert Garry Eveleigh.
As we meandered along the coastal path with views of the Solent and grassy farmland in the distance, armed with baskets to fill with our foraged finds, Garry pointed out an abundance of leaves and shoots for us to pick. Tasting along the way, before long our baskets were bursting with greenery: seablight, salty marsh samphire, sea beet and sea purslane, a feast in the making. Armed with our coastal finds, some local gulls' eggs (you need a special licence for this) and clams, we dropped into Limewood, the belle of New Forest hotels to turn our harvest into lunch.
Penne with potted shrimps and foraged greens (see recipe below)
Sea aster leaves are delicate and well worth foraging; young sea beet is rather like spinach but coarser in texture. The small round leaves of purslane are delicious and marsh samphire is a treat when the shoots are short and very tender to eat – snap the stems rather than pulling out the roots so the plant is preserved.
If you can't find potted shrimps, use prawns, a large knob of butter and a pinch each of powdered mace, nutmeg and cayenne instead.