This month we sat down and had a chat with professional forager and research herbalist Monica Wilde. She is currently on a wild-food only diet and is a wealth of knowledge about all foods foraged and found.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background
Living in Scotland since 1995 but brought up in east and central Africa. I have been teaching foraging professionally for over 12 years and am also a research herbalist with a MSc degree in herbal medicine.
I can currently following a wild food diet for a year because I’m interested in seeing how my body changes according to seasonal food availability throughout the year. Before this I had a predominantly vegetarian diet with occasional wild meat and fish.
Seaweed is nature’s ultimate vitamin complex. It contains a host of essential micronutrients and especially iodine which is so vital for the thyroid to regulate metabolic rate - the speed at which all your body’s biochemical processes work. This in turn affects brain power, hormones, and energy levels amongst many other critical health aspects.
I use wild food ingredients all the time so don’t really consider them an experiment. I guess the biggest amount of experimentation this winter has been with nut, seed and rhizome starch wild alternatives to cereal flours to make savoury biscuits and breads. I’ve also been playing with brine ferments of berries to make umeboshi damsons and sloe olives.
Olive oil is the only thing that I can’t replace with a foraging diet. I also have to buy sea salt. Everything else I can gather or make. If I had to choose a third it would be soy sauce. I can make an equivalent from mushrooms but it takes a lot of them and I like using it a lot.
I put seaweed into most dishes from oarweed (tangle) in soups and stews to dulse in rostis or sea oak blitzed into tapenade. I adore getting absolutely fresh pepper dulse and chopping it finely to sprinkle raw over lightly fried scallops. The rest of the chopped pepper dulse I mix into softened butter and freeze in pats to preserve it. Curls of pepper dulse butter on steamed vegetables are delicious.
Sea spaghetti is a staple for me. So easy to soak to rehydrate, then cook in boiling water for barely 5 minutes and serve with a bolognese sauce. Satisfying and delicious.