Hear Food Foragers Of Yesteryear Share Their Memories Online
Hear food foragers of yesteryear share their memories online. From nettle-root coffee to wild chestnuts for family Bonfire Nights, fascinating foraging tales from World War II hedgerows have been brought to the web for the first time – and are now available to all. Memories from across South East England, particularly Hampshire, West Sussex and the Isle of Wight, have been captured as sound recordings for the new online oral archive This is the culmination of The Tree Council’s Hedgerow Harvest History project, backed by a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant.
As well as hearing people’s experiences in their own words, anyone who goes to the website can also pick up tips and inspiration for safe and sustainable foraging today.
The central aim of the 2 year project was to seek out the personal stories of people who gathered food from British hedgerows, particularly during World War II, and also to compare these with the foraging traditions of migrants from Eastern Europe. There are tales from cooks and herbalists as well as those who were champion apple scrumpers in childhood or are expert in identifying edible mushrooms – such as giant puffballs – and the various ways of eating them.
Tree Council Tree Wardens and other volunteers who have contributed to the project gathered at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens near Romsey, Hampshire, to celebrate its completion. They included some who had recorded their stories for the sound archive and others who had interviewed them. There were also some who, backed by The Tree Council, had planted fruiting hedges or taken part in training to learn how best to look after them – all aimed at giving people in their communities opportunities to continue the foraging tradition.
Participants were able to sample food made from foraged ingredients and hear some of the project’s findings from oral history expert Matthew Paskins who has played an important role throughout The Tree Council initiative, including training volunteer oral history recorders, analysing the recordings and setting them in context on the website.
Margaret Lipscombe from The Tree Council said: “Our Hedgerow Harvest History project has discovered some really interesting tales from the past, particularly from World War II when a lot of foraging was driven by thrift and necessity. It has also given an insight into today’s foragers, whose priorities are often different.
“The foraging stories we have gathered are not simply about harvesting food for free. They also reveal aspects of childhood and family life, learning foraging skills and about nature from older generations, and cultivating allotments or gardens, as well as memories of struggle and improvisation.
“When we embarked on this project our aim was to celebrate our heritage of wild food foraging, record the experiences of those involved and create a living archive to demonstrate to a new generation the value of wild hedgerow food.
“We have also been working with schools and others in local communities to promote traditional conservation skills through training events, including rejuvenating hedges and harvesting fruit. These, too, proved opportunities for new generations to learn from experienced foragers.”