Do you ever have an experience that makes you feel you been able to find a missing piece of the puzzle? Or have you ever met someone who gives you a real ‘aha’ moment as new connections are made?
Well, that was our experience of meeting and foraging with Clare Holohan from West Highland Herbal in July. From the moment we met at Biggar Library for the book event (where Clare immediately rolled her sleeves up and started putting the toppings on the canapés), we knew we would get along like a house on fire.
We were already looking forward to reconnecting with the ancient wisdom that enabled us to thrive on wild plants and animals. Keen to learn about the food that grows wild here, food that’s full of health-giving properties and celebrating The Lint Mill as place that enables all this goodness to be concentrated. In everything we do at The Lint Mill we emphasise relationships. We believe that the relationship between us and the land we inhabit is so inextricably connected, we know that we and the land are the very same thing. We are not part of nature; we are nature. As we spent the weekend foraging and eating our way round our meadow, this concept became literally grounded.
There was so much to learn, so much growing in abundance under our feet. As an organic farm we concentrate on building healthy, nutritious soil to grow healthy and nutritious plants that we can feed to our stock to produce healthy animals. The healthy and nutritious plants and animals we eat help us to become healthy humans. For us, this has long been a ‘no-brainer’ but learning about the healing and health-giving properties of the species that grow wild here has taken our understanding to a new level. It has made a new connection, it has joined up the dots. We take care and manage the soil and it rewards us with good health if only we can develop the skills to access that goodness.
Clare’s book Scotland’s Wild Medicine and her foraging courses do just that. They unlock the mysteries known well to our forbears, in a clear and accessible way. Everyone who participated over the weekend went away with ideas of how they could use simply foraged plants in their everyday life.
By way of example, I suffer from hay fever and allergies and woke up on the Sunday morning of the course with a swollen eye. Clare suggested I gathered nettles and plantain leaves to make a herbal infusion to drink during the day to help reduce the inflammation. So with teapot in hand, I set off for a quick forage, added boiling water and had my herbal tea to drink in 10 minutes. It doesn’t really get more instant than that. Incidentally, the nettle, so readily available, turns out to be a wonder plant, a native super-food and has so many properties and applications. We have made nettle cordial and put nettles into dumplings before (which are delicious) but learning more about them means we will use them very much more.
Clare has a wealth of experience, is a mine of knowledge and made the whole experience such fun. I absolutely recommend having a good forage round her website. For the things we learned, for the fun we had, for the connections we made, thank you Clare. We hope it’s the beginning of a long collaboration.