From feasts on hidden riverbanks to mushroom picking in remote Scotland, these wild foraging and dining experiences are a celebration of their natural surroundings.
For Amanda Farnese-Heath, food is a big deal. Raised in an Italian household, the food entrepreneur’s childhood played out around a bustling kitchen table, and the desire to share those experiences of home-cooking never left her.
Two years ago, those inspirations culminated in the launch of Mad March Hare, a seven-course dining concept served beneath the autumn leaves of a remote forest in the wilds of Scotland. Picture long tables clustered with lights and laden with locally foraged food, shaded by East Lothian trees dating back thousands of years. The 2019 edition, taking place in September, takes on a new dimension by protecting acres of rainforest with £50 of each ticket sale going to The World Land Trust.
Menus are simple yet flavoursome, veggie-focused, and geared around the seasons. Think steaming pots of heart-warming curries and stews, mopped up with crusty local bread, delicious unpasteurised dairy cheeses and heavenly desserts, all washed down with natural wine. The mood is relaxed and friendly, with food slow-cooked over a fire and served leisurely over the course of four hours, allowing guests to drink in their surroundings.
Eating isn’t the only activity on the menu, either. This year there will be a talk by foraging expert Monica Wilde on the art of foraging mushrooms in Scotland, along with a debrief on the benefits of wild wine and natural fizz.
Farnese-Heath is just one of a growing tribe of foodies spreading their passion for authentic, hyper-local ingredients through wild dining events. As our mile-a-minute, data-driven lives fuel a desire to reconnect with the natural world and engage with all things ‘slow’, experiences like Mad March Hare feel increasingly special and important.
Mad March Hare’s World Land Trust Vegetarian & Vegan Forest Fundraiser takes place on 7 September 2019, 5-11.30pm, £120 per person
Off-grid outdoor dining experience
Chef, hunter and forager Mark Andrews is the man behind Fire + Wild, an off-grid outdoor dining experience based in East Sussex, cooking with wild ingredients native to the British Isles. Andrews’ style of cooking draws on time spent in remote parts of Scotland, Sweden and France where he would camp and canoe, periodically foraging for food and cooking over fires. Today, Fire + Wild serve hyper-seasonal wild food, fish and game in breath-taking natural settings, and give 5% of their profits to The Woodland Trust, which works to protect UK forests and restore ancient woodlands. Upcoming events include a guided foraging walk in Kent followed by a feast on a hidden riverbank, with the option of adding bed and breakfast accommodation in luxury bell tents to your stay. Tickets from £100.
Sustainability and seasonality
From courses in coastal foraging and cooking, to experiences based around wild plants to nourish the body and soul, the team at Yorkshire-born Taste the Wild is passionate about sustainability and seasonality. Whether you want to spend a day in the cool of the forest learning how to locate, identify and prepare edible plants, nuts, seeds and fungi, master the art of preserving your finds using vinegars, or channel your inner caveman and learn how to cook with fire, this foodie collective is on hand to deliver expert knowledge against a backdrop of spectacular landscapes. Day classes start from £85.
Foraging and cooking course
Foraging and cooking course providers Totally Wild UK offer wild food masterclasses up and down the country, many of which end in a locally foraged, pre-prepared meal. These range from harvest foraging in Cheshire to seaweed sourcing in Devon, but there are plenty of experiences on offer in the capital too, such as the forage and wild food lunch on Hackney Marshes. Discover the plethora of wild edibles growing in the green pocket of London, before sitting down for a feast of foodie treats such as acorn sour-dough bread, ginger and knotweed jam, cheese and hawthorn chutney, and nettle cordial. Tickets £60.
Words: Mary-Jane Wiltsher