Several years ago I left the corporate world to become a mum and worked part time for our family business in the motor-trade. After several more years I wanted to do something which allowed me to spend invaluable time with my growing children.
Having being brought up in the North Yorkshire Moors and Dales I loved the outdoors, I'd always known a little by way of foraging skills from things I'd picked up as a child roaming around the countryside, but once I had my own children I found it fascinating that there was an abundance of wild food available. As I learnt, so did my children and taking inspiration from the likes of River Cottages Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall we bought into the glorious life of being self -sufficient, however with no land we found ourselves foraging more and more in the countryside and coastline near to our home. I'd invested in several foraging books with my first being “Food For Free” by Richard Mabey and every walk with the dog or trip to the seaside we'd forage for something simple (and blindingly obvious) such as sea beet, dandelion or sorrel leaves and add them to my recipes.
I couldn't bear to have waste, and if there was an a tree or hedge bowing with the weight of its fruit I'd duly pick enough to make a few batches but being careful to leave plenty for the animals and birds. My shed was rammed full of my wares and I ended up giving it away to friends, family and anyone who showed any interest in what I was doing.
People would stop to talk to me on our walks and I'd love talking to them about what we were picking and what I would make from it. In the end I realised that my hobby had the potential to earn an income from. My dream to be a stay at home mum could actually be a possibility. People would tell me I had great products that they kept coming back for time and time again. They too began to wait for the seasons to change as they knew I'd be making batches of seasonal products for them to devour and stock up on. And so Kate's Kitchen Preserves was born out of a pure love for the countryside, a desire to feed my family using natural ingredients, and the sheer determination to work for myself.
Wild garlic (Ramsons) was one of the first plants I foraged for confidently. I used to add them to my cooking at every opportunity and still do. I love the beauty of the flower and its striking white purity against the swathes of heavily aromatic green leaves. When I started in business I knew the Ramson Flower had to be incorporated into my branding. I gave my dad, a talented artist, the job of drawing the flower with carte blanche and what he drew, a negative image, is what you see today on the jars, my website, my van and all my literature. Every part of my business is created from the heart and with the support of all my family in one way or another.
What I really want to come across in my products and the information on my website is that I'm just an ordinary mum who's OK at cooking, likes the outdoors, loves socialising and, as I regularly tell my friends, if there is ever an apocalypse they need to be in my bunker as I'd like to think we'd be able to survive using my foraging skills! We may well need Bear Grylls or Ray Mears to help build a shelter but you'd definitely not be hungry!
I'd love for you to read this and be inspired to try foraging, especially if you have children. Anyone can do it, it's fun, gets you outdoors, and so long as you are careful in what you pick by cross referring with at least 2 comprehensive guide books, you can safely eat your findings or incorporate them into your cooking.
I've listed some useful reference and recipe books below but there are lots and lots out there which have equal weight, these are just my favourite and I have in no way been asked to advertise them; please also note the internet is a fantastic source of information and there are some great apps out there which will help you get started if you haven't the time or money to invest in paper copies;