Foraging in Shotley, Suffolk with Gamekeeper’s Daughter

Published on June 15, 2021 by Alex Eade

Time out with the team is something that we’re not likely to take for granted…ever again! It’s been a testing 18 months, and we’re still missing out on regular contact with our colleagues (lunch breaks, coffee breaks, even a meeting in the same room sounds like a novelty!) so we were all thrilled to see a Footprint Fun Day pop into the calendar this month!

Nestled in the beautiful Suffolk countryside, Shotley Vineyard and its surrounding fields and mud flats were our destination for the day. After a dismally rainy May, we were treated to the most glorious sunshine and gathered together to enjoy a lime, ginger and mint mocktail full of our first taste of foraged ingredients. This also gave us a chance to meet some of Footprint’s newest recruits for the first time – a big welcome to Rhys who has been with us since January, Bailey who joined a month ago,  Jennifer and Ed who were in the middle of their first week, and Kaya & Helena who will be joining us later in the year!

After a quick introduction from Jessica Noy of Gamekeeper’s Daughter, we were off out past the sloping vineyards and into the countryside to scour fields and hedgerows for edible wild ingredients. One of the very first we came across was Pineapple Weed – something that I’m sure most of us have seen, but never eaten. This small yellow green bud looks innocuous but give it a quick squeeze and it lets off a pungent pineappley scent. It even tastes a bit like pineapple and is great as a garnish for drinks – we had it in our mocktail but you could pop it in your Pimms!

The hedgerows offered up common hogweed and Alexanders which taste like celery. After ducking through an avenue of trees, we were greeted with the most breathtaking view of the mud flats – J had worn wellies especially for this moment, and almost lost one jumping into the mud!

Along the flats we found sea spinach, salty and delicious sea purslane, and sea aster which tastes of coriander – although be careful, the lighter green parts and roots contain arsenic! We also kept our eyes peeled for marsh samphire but it was a bit too early in the season.

On our way back, Jessica got out her gloves and took a clipping from an invasive giant hogweed plant. Chemicals in this plant cause photosensitivity – and skin that has touched it can blister and burn – even years after, it has a proclivity to sunburn. You have been warned!!

Arriving back at Shotley Vineyard, we were ready to sit down in the sun and enjoy a cold glass of the vineyard’s Bacchus white – deliciously fruity and crisp. Bacchus is increasingly grown in England and our cooler climate means the grapes retain a higher acidity. Shotley has over 3000 Bacchus vines which were planted in the late 1990s and early noughties.

We also tried their light bodied single estate Pinot Noir. The estate has over 4000 Pinot Noir vines which were planted in the 1990s. Both were very drinkable and we could have stayed all day!

We were told that we would be served with canapes made with the foraged ingredients – to our delight, canapés turned out to be a full smorgasbord for everyone! We enjoyed a tasting menu of miso and sea beet potato cakes with brown crab mousse and wild herb mayonnaise, Stutton asparagus with wild salsa verde, wild sushi rolls with pickled sea aster and gorse flower, common hogweed spiced bhaji fritter, and a dessert of wild strawberry sorbet with micro basil and wood sorrel.

After lunch, came graduation. We completed our Footprint Academy the week before and had taken it online due to coronavirus. This meant we got to teach a lot more people than normal – but couldn’t meet them in the flesh! A few of this year’s cohort, who are already team members or who are about to join us, were given the task of styling their very own graduation hats, ready for the obligatory cap throwing photo.

It wouldn’t have been a Footprint day out without some healthy competition, so at the end of the day we took to the boules pitch for some quick fire games before Hannah and Rosie met in a final head to head. Rosie put up a good fight, but Hannah just pipped her to the post (or jack in this instance) and came away victorious – well done Hannah!

We were very grateful that the day brought us some normality – and a pineapple-weed-taste of what’s to come in the future.