Petersham Nurseries Wild Food Walk With Claudio Bincoletto – Write Up
FEBRUARY WILD FOOD WALK WITH CLAUDIO BINCOLETTO
Sunday, 22nd February 2015 09:30am – 12:00pm
SOLD OUT (£35.00)
Discover the joys of foraging with the charismatic and knowledgeable chef and horticulturalist, Claudio Bincoletto. Each walk lasts an hour after with we return to the Nurseries for a light brunch, glass of wine and cooking demonstration.Tickets £35.00 (includes walk, light foraged lunch including tea/ coffee and a glass of wine).
I decided to treat myself to the above, which is the Wild Food Walk from Petersham Nurseries. Having never been to any of their events I was super excited. Being a total novice forager I was keen to find out more about what I could acquire in the wild to eat, be it raw or cooked.
My mind did wonder as to what exactly one would find at this time of the year foraging but I was assured upon a telephone conversation with one of the lovely staff at Petersham that I would return with at least three or four foraged items to cook/keep.
Even though I have been there a few times now to shop and eat their wonderful gluten free cake, the splendour and sense of magic when you enter Petersham still takes my breath away.
(please click upon any image in the galleries to have it brought up to full size)
It was one of those mornings where you could see your own breath and the frost lay lightly upon the ground. I arrived with a friend of mine and saw a variety of age groups, some with babies also arriving for the scheduled event.
Having never seen Claudio Bincoletto I was rather excited when I spied him through the vintage glass of one of the large greenhouses preparing what looked like our lunch. I made my introductions to him upon entering and received a very warm welcome and could tell immediately that I was going to have an enjoyable day.
All the eager participants of the event had a few minutes to mingle and peruse the indoor shopping area, to get some ideas and feel a certain sense of inspiration to get planting for the year ahead.
Claudio then made his introductions to all and it was time to go. As we were leaving to go for our walk I spied next door where he had been working to see a lovely rustic natural display upon the long iron tables, it was a sign of good things to come.
Claudio started with the history of the immediate area and Petersham itself, I wont be a spoiler and talk about it here, because then you won’t be tempted to go and try it out for yourself.
I was shocked to be told that this area which is so wild and seemingly unkempt to the novices eye that this used to be a beautiful wild garden with a summer house. The rising waters have caused much damage and havoc in the local area.
There were a few lovely private gardens tucked away on our walk which always gave a sense of magical mystery as one peeked through the iron gates.
Claudio was extremely passionate about preserving the majestic trees, so many of which have suffered with the rising waters and various other influences. He gave us the entire history of each statuesque tree with a sense of fondness like they were almost family members. There are not as many left now, perhaps a handful in the wild wooded area that formed part of our walk.
Having traversed the woodland we then had a short amble down by the river, only to turn left back in to the woods and witness more water damage. You can see some of the preventative measures in the form of sand bags that have been put up.
We were shown two types of wild garlic, now I know they had special names but for the life of me I cannot remember what they were. However one is best cooked, the other not and just put in salads. But like all things, one has to be careful certainly that we know that what we are picking is safe and edible and also not urinated upon by the many doggies going for their walks.
Claudio showed us the Artist’s Conk, or rather Nature’s Canvas. I found this a fascinating fungus. It is not edible. However if you touch underneath it is super soft, like a soft leather and artists have been known to draw pictures upon it. You can see a really interesting article about it here:- Artist’s Conk
We also found the Judas Ear mushroom which apparently is edible. I have to say to me it looked utterly disgusting and felt it too, it caused many an “urgh yuk” amonstg fellow walkers. I don’t think I would want to try it, but interesting all the same.
Some of the trees that have seen better days still strike an imposing silhouette against the skyline.
Claudio explained about a fungus that eats away at the inside of the trees. Many of the majestic prominent ones have fallen to this fungus. However what was interesting is that this fungus eats away at the entire core of the tree, you can see this in the photo below. The tree either dies because of this or becomes stronger, the fact that it is hollow means that it is more flexible in the wind and less likely to fall over in high gusts.
What is the saying “what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger?”
We finally returned after about an hour. Being a visual person I took delight at all the table decor. The walkers were invited to find a seat, it was all a very relaxed affair.
Once we were all seated, Claudio with various cooks served us bit by bit an array of wonderful foods. Not the type I would normally cook at home. There were potatoes in an anchovy sauce, of which I ate far too much, my tummy grumbling afterwards, but it was well worth it. Lots of raw vegetables, cooked roots and leaves etc. We had wine and pudding also. This was something I was not expecting in such quantity and variety, certainly a wonderful treat.
All in all the event was wonderful and good value. I had gone with the anticipation of walking away with an increasing level of knowledge of foraging that would enable me perhaps re-create the walk and find my own wild foods or indeed find wild foods elsewhere. However we returned empty handed but I fear this was due to the season and the weather.
The passion and knowledge from Claudio was infectious and inspiring. He clearly has a wonderful talent and knowledge base to share. The food blew me away and I thoroughly enjoyed the walk. I walked away with a full belly and an increasing understanding of the plight of the local area by the rising water levels and interesting bits and pieces about the local trees and garlic!
I am not sponsored to write these articles, I write them for the pure enjoyment and to spread news about events in the local area.
If you wish to see more events available at Petersham, please click here:- Petersham Nurseries Events
© Justine Nagaur