Welcome to all SWHA members and potential members, we hope you enjoy this little taste of what we are about and hope to meet you at the Big Tent Festival at Falkland Cupar on 21st and 22nd July.
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Scottish Wild Harvests Association Newsletter July 2012

Welcome to all members and potential members, we hope you enjoy this little taste of what we are about and hope to meet you at the Big Tent Festival at Falkland, Cupar, Fife on 21st and 22nd July and the Wooplaw 25 celebrations, 31st August to 2nd September. We also hope you will be as delighted as we are with the new Handbook of Scotland's Wild Harvests.

A Handbook of Scotland's Wild Harvests

Our greatest achievement this year is the 'Handbook of Scotland’s Wild Harvests', edited by Fi Martynoga and produced in conjunction with Reforesting Scotland, the Handbook is being launched at the Big Tent festival. RRP £12.99; a perfect present! Published by Saraband.

Book launch at Big Tent

Scotland’s biggest green festival is set in the beautiful landscape of Falkland Estate in the Kingdom of Fife in Scotland. Big Tent is a fantastic weekend of music, arts and family activities mixed with stimulating debates on social and green issues. SWHA will be there celebrating the launch of the Handbook of Scotland's Wild Harvests. As well as a one-off launch event in the Oak Yurt at noon on Sunday, we can be found all weekend alongside the Forest Gardening display, and will be cooking wild foods and putting a wild harvest twist on some traditional favourites. Eating wild food connects you with where you live and, along with eating seasonal and local foods, helps reduce your carbon footprint.

Wild mushrooms – nature's bounty: harvest with care!

The mushroom season is upon us, and as it has been so damp and warm, it is promising to be a bumper year. One of the earliest fungi to appear is the delightful chanterelle. Care must be taken when gathering this delicate fungus as the fine mycelia just under the leaf litter can be irredeemably damaged by trampling.

Unfortunately we all too often hear of cases where such simple precautions are ignored. Most recently it has come to our attention that there is a gang stripping and damaging traditional mushroom sites in Aberdeenshire, to the dismay of both landowners and local pickers. This is just one example of the kind of abuse which is causing concern for us at SWHA, for all responsible foragers, and for Scottish Natural Heritage. These gatherers do not follow the rules of sustainable gathering, trample sites (rendering them unproductive) and take immature fungi that have not had a chance to disperse spores. We have also heard of farms offering (for a fee) fungi forays, where people are allowed to collect as many fungi as they can, then back at the farmhouse an expert identifies them. This means that a large quantity of edible and non edible fungi are gathered and many fungi are wasted – another case of unsustainable practice. So if you are going gathering please follow the Scottish Wild Mushroom Code, only take what you are going to eat, and tread lightly on the Earth.

Read more about the Scottish Wild Mushroom Code, and where to get printed Mushroom Code leaflets

The Handbook of Scotland's Wild Harvests contains useful notes on how to harvest mushrooms safely, as well! The golden rule is never to eat any species unless you can identify it with 100% certainty.

Niche products or ethical dilemma?

We have had some strange and interesting requests this year mostly from ambitious chefs requiring quantities of wild foods such as pignuts (Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall may be to blame for this one), birch sap, primrose and violet flowers, seakale, samphire, cloudberries and cranberries. After many emails back and forth and howls of, ‘but that’s a protected species’! our response has to be that foraging is primarily about finding wild food in your own locality, in season, for your own consumption. It is about sustainable gathering and adding interest to your cooking and salads, it is not about raiding the countryside. There can of course be commercial niches for some of these products if they are truly abundant, or grown specifically for the market, and SWHA continues to act as a contact point for growers and for responsible gatherers.

Orchards are often good places to forage as the understorey is usually rich in edible plants. Planting red clover under fruit tees helps fix nitrogen and attracts insects, dandelions in orchards also attract pollinating bees and Swiss orchards are planted with dandelions. Many communities and schools in Scotland are planting orchards and including wild fruit and nut hedges that double as a windbreak and fruit for the store. Trees for sap such as birch could be included in a planting plan.

There's much more information on how to do this on the South West Community Woodlands Trust's website - click on 'Orchards Project' to find out more.

Later this year: Wooplaw 25 Celebrations

Wooplaw Community Woodland in the Borders was the first Community Woodland in Scotland to be managed by a group of volunteer trustees and celebrates its 25th birthday during the first weekend in September, starting on the Blue Moon of Friday 31st August. SWHA members will be there, camping in the woods and letting people know about what we're doing, and we're looking for more volunteers to make light work of it. For more details as they become available see the Wooplaw and SWHA websites - all welcome.

We are not just about food

The photo shows Jem Cox using locally-grown reed from Auchencairn Bay Dumfries and Galloway to thatch the compost loo at ‘Taliesin’ the home of South West Community Woodlands Trust. (Courses this Oct 13th 14th on dry stane dyking and knitting!)

Changes for SWHA

SWHA has drawn up a new constitution. Originally we were a trade association but now our membership is fully open to all foragers and people interested in learning about foraging.

We have also drafted a Code of Conduct for foragers with links to specific codes such as the Mushroom, Moss and Bulb Collection codes. These documents will be available on our website in the near future.

Thirdly, SWHA has agreed to become part of the Scottish Working Woods label. This grassroots scheme guarantees that products and the businesses producing them are local, ethical and Scottish. SWHA members can apply to use the label on products which are made from materials from sustainably-managed Scottish woodlands. Carved and greenwood items, hedgerow fruits and woodland salads are just some of the possibilities. Get in touch if you'd like to know more.

Membership and supporting SWHA

We haven’t asked for any money for a while, so please join or renew your membership (the call will be going out soon) and help keep us going – we don’t get money from anywhere else. Please give what you can afford; we ask for a minimum of £10 per person to cover admin costs. Many thanks.

Jools Cox (Chair)
Scottish Wild Harvests Association
Copyright © 2012 Scottish Wild Harvests Association, All rights reserved.