Sunday, 7 April 2013

fossils and foraging

The weather has finally eased up a few degrees, so today we decided to go down the coast for a walk followed by lunch in a pub with a log fire.  Sunday bliss!

One of my favourite beaches to go to round here is Monknash - it disappears at high tide so you have to time your visit right if you want a decent walk.  The hedgerows on the way down the hill are fabulously ancient and have a real diversity of species.

It's always fun to hunt for fossils on the beach there as it's part of Wales' 'Jurassic Coast'.  Once you've got your eye in you start spotting them everywhere.  Sometimes you see fantastic ammonites in the  rock platforms - but you can never find them again when you go back.  The whole place is constantly pounded by the sea so there's always something new to find.  Here are the best of today's fossils:

My foraging target for today was Alexanders.  Having walked here for many years I knew there were a few good size clumps by the wayside.  This would be a good moment to remind everyone not to eat anything gathered from the wild unless YOU'RE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS.  This is especially true with things that get generically referred to as 'cow parsley' - some of them are good to eat, others are highly poisonous things like hemlock, and they all look very similar.

So - having scared the bejasus out of Mr Asparagus Pea with that little lecture, I then set to gathering some wild greens for our supper.

Hungry now, huh?

Alexanders are identifiable by their bright shiny green leaves and yellowish green flower heads.  You'll also be finding them early in the season before everything else has got going, be within about a mile of the sea and probably within spitting distance of an old monastic settlement.  The car park of the Plough and Harrow at Monknash ticks all these boxes perfectly - the buildings date to 1383 and were a 'grange' (farm established by a monastery to provide food).

It's the stalks you're after.

I steamed them for five minutes and served them with some butter and black pepper.

Verdict:  You need to get them young as they're a bit stringy.  The texture of these was okay but I wouldn't want them any older without peeling the stems.  The taste is quite strong - you need to like celery.  As with a lot of foraged stuff, the joy of these is that they're off the starting blocks very early in the season and deliver a welcome punch of springy green long before the annual veg in your garden begin to make it on to the plate.


  1. Foraging for food, it all sounds so romantic.
    I could munch on raw celery all day, but put it anywhere near a heat source and I go right off!
    (celery soup - ewwww!) So I probably wouldn't like Alexanders. Very pretty flowers though.
    Are you allowed to remove the fossils and take them home with you? We are not allowed to take as much as a pebble here (but we are off for a few days to our south-west coast soon and I will be popping a few in my pocket...)

  2. There's all kinds of rules and codes about fossil collecting depending on whether it's a protected site or not. I mostly favour the photograph and leave behind approach.
    Give my love to Kojonup on your way down south - I spent 6 months in WA at the end of the 90's. I worked as a dental assistant in Kojonup for 3 months (no previous exp required). Went to see Manpower Australia at the Katanning Sports and Leisure Centre - they had to take the backflips out of their routine because the suspended ceiling was too low!

  3. Ha-ha! I managed to avoid Manpower - although I had friend's who were rather found of the boys!