Foraging is a risky business. Even with blackberry-picking you can be stung by nettles, festooned with spiders’ silk or stung by a feisty wasp who thinks blackberries are for him alone. But big blackberries, swollen with juice, leaning from the hedge, are just asking to be picked. So the other day I succumbed and, a couple of hours after picking, had made ice cream with blackberry juice rippled through it, a blackberry juice and windfall apple compote and a juice-soaked cake. And all without a pip in sight as I cooked, whizzed and sieved the blackberries to avoid pips getting stuck in teeth.
Much riskier – for the untrained eye, hand and mouth – is foraging for other food: fungi, leaves, other berries, flowers… Which are edible? Which are likely to give you tummy ache – or worse? How do I, as a non-expert, learn? I could ask someone who is knowledgeable, I could get a good book. Probably best of all, is to go with an expert on a joint adventure into the wilds.
Maybe this is true of any new thing. Companionship is of benefit to both parties – teacher and learner. There is pleasure in observation – pointing out interesting objects to each other; delight in conversation – asking and listening; walking and talking. And then, hopefully, at the end of the day, eating together. Without tummy ache.