Local D.J: Thanks for joining us on ‘Freaky Feast’ today, Rhys.
Rhys: No, thank you. It’s joyful to be here.
Local D.J: Can you explain to our listeners what foraging is, exactly.
It’s nothing to do with George Michael, is it?
[Laughing all round.]
Rhys: No, Suzie. In simple terms, it’s searching for food in the wild.
But at a much deeper level it’s about feeding the soul and listening to what nature is trying to tell us.
Local D.J: Ooh, crikey! What’s it saying then?
Rhys: If you pick a ripe mopi berry towards the beginning of Spring, for example, it has a gentle licorice flavour. But if you leave it a few weeks it will become really quite bitter.
It stops singing and feels dead in your mouth.
Local D.J: Passed its sell-by-date, haha?
Rhys: It’s very tempting to filter our senses through the parlance of contemporary food economics but if you live of the earth, by the earth, you develop a very different relationship with it.
Local D.J: My fella mostly has a relationship with kebabs but there you go!
Have you foraged anything rank before?
Rhys: If you’re asking if I’ve made mistakes, by all means, I’ve lost my way from time to time.
Memorably, I was hiking from Wibbley Hole to Lower Frankton’s Belly on the East Coast of Scotland last Winter and I had dropped my copper wristband and lucky neckerchief.
The wind blew in from the South and I needed to bed down in a bog and nourish myself to harness energy for the new challenges facing me.
The light was low and I picked an Ameranthus pigcimilus, thinking it was an Ameranthus pigcimili, because they both smell like deep-fried Mars Bars and have frilly bits around the stem.
I had barely sucked the juice from the prickle of its lower branches when I knew Ancient Wisdom was not smiling on me.
Local D.J: Was it coming out both ends?
Local D.J: Eew! How did you even get into foraging?
Rhys: I inherited the knowledge from my parents. They were hunter-gatherers too.
Local D.J: Didn’t you say earlier your Dad worked for the Leccy Board?
Rhys: During the week, yes.
But if anyone asked him what he did for a living he would say, ‘I breathe.’ He loved saying that.
He met my mother at a Druid festival. She made him a necklace from wormwort and two weeks later moved into his goat-hide tee-pee.
Local D.J: Sounds well hippy, mate.
Tell us what inspires you.
Rhys: Hin Yun Tan wrote an incredible book, ‘Journey into tomorrow: Understanding how your navel relates to the Woodland outreaches of Alaska’ and in it he talks about the connection between time’s evanescence and the funghi on the yew trees of the Himalayas.
I found that profoundly influential.
Local DJ: And what is the connection?
Rhys: A very strong one. They’re connected together in lots of connected ways.
We’re connected with everything. Organically.
Local DJ: Right on, OK.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve foraged then?
Rhys: That would have to be the rare Lillandipot leaf I stumbled across when I was washing my waistcoat in a Guernsey estuary at dawn, last Summer.
I could barely believe my luck when I saw it waving at me between the bedrock and alluvium.
It’s the forager’s golden ticket and to think I nearly wiped my bottom with it.
Local D.J: Maybe you should have!
Now, I hope you don’t mind my pointing this out but it’s difficult for our radio listeners.
Rhys: What’s that?
Local D.J: Well, you’re different to most foragers. Is that fair to say?
Rhys: I have to agree that I’m on a particular spiritual path.
Local D.J: Yeah and they’re whippets mostly, aren’t they? But you’re…
Rhys: Sixteen stone, Suzie? Yes, I am.
You see, this is a common misconception- that foragers don’t eat much.
And I’m happy to dispel it.
There are enormous reserves of leaves and berries in the Bristol area. Nuts are especially calorific.
And I’m very fortunate with roadkill in the area around the M5.
Local D.J: Are you saying you forage in supermarkets?
Local D.J: You go for it, Wild Man!
Before you ramble off, leave us with a recipe, will you?
Rhys: Take a good handful of Rinculum Hiberniclaw and roll it in your hands to release the citrus scent.
Poach it in some spring water overnight, with some chestnuts and a pinch of shredded basil- not too much, to keep the flavours fresh.
Mix it with some edible weeds, bundle it into a bay leaf and dip the whole wrap into the milk of a shrub.
Then eat it just as it is, with a small handful of oven chips.