Set sail for a forager’s feast on Scilly
Succulent sea spinach, slightly salty blackberries and abundant rock samphire – Scilly is the perfect environment in which to channel your inner forager. It’s the perfect excuse to step away from the supermarkets and take a fresh look at nature’s pantry.
For ten years, local foraging expert Rachel Lambert has introduced visitors to the wilder side of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Her passion for foraging is distilled into informative and friendly tours that equip you with the knowledge you need to source edible flora along Scilly’s shores. We simply had to find out more…
What first drew you to foraging?
I’ve always had a love of walking and food, and foraging combines the two. It’s a sensory experience that helps you get to know your surroundings on another level.
Why is Scilly the ideal destination for foraging?
While one can forage almost anywhere, Scilly has a particularly good environment. It’s fresh and mild, and there’s a good choice of plants thanks to the semi-tropical weather patterns.
What makes foraging such a unique experience?
You can try new flavours that you won’t find in the supermarket. Plus, it’s a simple pleasure, and the simple things really do matter – the rest of life is always trying to pull us away from them.
“The simple things really do matter – the rest of life is always trying to pull us away from them.”
What sort of ingredients do you forage for?
I look for greens, seeds, fruit, flowers, seaweeds, leaves and shoots. I’m very conscious of sustainability and taking care of the land. It’s important to take only what you need and to pick where there is abundance. Try to take cuttings instead of the whole plant, as other species may rely on it.
Are there any unusual plants that we should look out for?
You’ll find the Bermuda buttercup on Scilly, although you should know that it’s not a buttercup and it’s not from Bermuda! It is part of the oxalis family and it has a citrusy flavour, so it’s ideal in a salad or as an accompaniment to fish. You might also find wild blackberries; some people say they have a slight salty taste from being surrounded by the sea.
Which islands are best for foraging?
The islands are similar and different at the same time – I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite! You really could drop me anywhere, but I enjoy the long stretch of beach by Higher Town Quay on St Martin’s, which is fantastic for foraging seaweed.
How do you prefer to travel to the islands?
I prefer sailing over on the Scillonian passenger ferry. I love slow travel and it gives me time to adjust to my surroundings. My private tours can be booked to coincide with a day trip, or as an excursion during a longer stay. If you are planning to stay on Scilly overnight, I can arrange for a chef to cook you a delicious 3-course dinner inspired by the ingredients we’ve foraged.
Sounds delicious, do you have a recipe you can share with us?
Yes, I love the taste of Alexander seeds and I am always excited to find a new way for the flavour to be enjoyed. Alexander Seeded Bread was first conceived with the head chef at Hell Bay, when I was offering gourmet wild food breaks. This is my own version of the recipe:
500g white stoneground flour
1 tablespoon of Alexander seeds, finely chopped or roughly ground
1 teaspoon quick yeast
1 dessertspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon of salt
400ml warm water
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Pre-heat the oven at Gas 7, 200°C, 425°F. Add the flour, chopped Alexander seeds, salt and quick yeast into a large mixing bowl and stir. Dissolve the honey in the warm water and slowly add to the flour mix. Stir in the oil. Knead for 10 minutes and place on a greased baking tray or loaf tin. Cover with a clean cloth and leave for 20 minutes. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when you tap it.
Tip: Alexander seeds are quite tough. You can grind them up in a clean coffee grinder, in a seed grinder, or carefully chop them by hand. Sometimes you can grind them with a strong pepper mill too.
Do you have a top foraging tip?
Take the time to look at the details of each plant to be sure you have identified it correctly. Only pick if you’re 100% certain – the plants will return next year and there will be other chances to forage for them.
Whether you’ve been inspired to book one of Rachel Lambert’s foraging forays, or you’re simply craving a Scilly escape; your journey of discovery begins with us here at Isles of Scilly Travel. With incredible views of the islands from above aboard Skybus or from the deck of our passenger ferry, you’ll arrive ready to explore.
Your foraging checklist
How many of these wild plants, berries and flowers can you spot on Scilly?
Growing up to 1.25m tall, Alexanders have large dried flower heads, which hold seeds that are black, ridged and 3-dimensional. The seeds can be stored by lightly dry-roasting.
A firm favourite, brambles are perfect for picking. Delicious in jams or in baked treats.
Spikey leaves with yellow flowers that can be dried for a floral flavour.
A green, succulent plant that tastes like cucumber when raw.
A leafy green found by the coast that’s delicious served with seafood.
Nothing at all like a regular carrot! This plant’s seeds can be used fresh or dried in baking. Don’t eat the seeds if pregnant.
Ground fennel seeds add an aniseed flavour to sweet and savoury dishes.
*Wild plants can be poisonous. Do not ingest anything unless you are absolutely sure it is safe to do so. Always ask an expert if you are unsure.