Glorious sunshine and a spectacular coastal setting are a couple of the ingredients which helped to make our Forests & Food event this month one to savour.
Add to this teamwork, sound planning and pre-event publicity (easier these days thanks to social media) and you’ve a recipe for a great day out which attracted well over 100 visitors and local families to the stunning Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve in Sutherland. Ok, that’s the food puns out the way!
By teaming up with colleagues from the Forestry Commission (Scotland), the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Scotland’s Natural Larder, staff from our Golspie office were able to organise a range of activities which kept everybody both entertained and well-fed.
Younger visitors, and those young at heart, tended to first hone in on the Scottish Wildlife Trust stall where they got stuck-in building wild bird feeders and nest boxes. It was impressive to see the Trust staff bravely holding bits of wood while young arms waived hammers about: but thankfully no thumbs were hit and there was just enough wood to keep people at this popular stand busy until it was time to go home.
Scotland’s Natural Larder is an SNH project developed to try and reconnect people with their local and natural produce, whilst encouraging best practice and the responsible use of our natural food resources. Professional cook, author and food demonstrator, Catriona Frankitti, ably assisted by husband John, talked to an enthusiastic audience about the culinary traditions of using and preserving food from the forests and surrounding habitats.
The couple demonstrated the preparation and cooking of some seasonal wild foods found in the local area, including venison, goose, various fungi, nuts and berries. Mouth-watering ‘tasters’ were prepared and presented to keep the audience sustained throughout the afternoon: venison chilli; smoked venison; Crowdie cheese with herbs and hazelnuts; nettle and wild garlic pesto; potted rabbit; goose curry and fruit leathers – to give you a flavour.
“It was really great to be working in such a beautiful location and to have such an interested and engaged audience”, said Catriona afterwards. “We all enjoyed talking about adding value to our local wild food resources by processing, preserving, smoking, making jams and jellies and looking at ways we can use these to contribute to distinctly Scottish cuisine.”
Mark Williams, from Galloway Wild Foods, also demonstrated an array of delicious food you can forage at this time of year. He also led two very popular foraging walks – one along the coast, the other into the woods – which attracted more than 50 participants.
An excellent demonstration of green wood working was provided by Forestry Commission (Scotland), complete with an impressive foot powered lathe. Everyone then had an opportunity to try making a range of items – three legged stools being particularly popular. Younger woodworkers enjoyed making a range of forest animals at a modelling table, including capercaillie, owls, and bats. The Forestry Commission also generously provided everyone with a venison burger from their barbecue. It seemed the wee tasters available in the Scotland’s Natural Larder tent had just served to whet folks’ appetites for something a bit more substantial, and a dash back up to Golspie for more supplies was needed.
Ian Mitchell from our Golspie office was delighted with the way the day panned out: “I’d like to thank absolutely everyone who helped to organise and deliver this really successful partnership event, including Sutherland Estates for allowing us all to hold this event on their land. The feedback we’ve received via email, social media and on the street has all been really positive and I am very grateful to everyone who turned up on the day.”
Keep an ear open and an eye on our social media as we’ll no doubt be organising further events like this in future, although, of course, we won’t be able to guarantee the glorious sunshine.
You can follow Scotland’s Natural Larder on Twitter @ScotsNatLarder.