Living on a Canal Boat – Towpath Foraging

Donna, Mark and Inky the greyhound have recently become canal liveaboards. They are sharing their enjoyments and enlightenments with us!

Surrounded by so much vegetation along the canalside I was inspired on a walk recently to harvest what I thought was an abundance of Good King Henry leaves.

Obtaining food for free from the hedgerow and beneath is a legal buzz but so far I have been limited to clearly recognisable edibles like nettles, blackberries, sloes and very young hawthorn leaves (thanks to my brother’s extensive knowledge of trees and their leaves). Overhanging apples from private gardens don’t count and nor does grass although in his imaginative book ‘Self reliance’ John Yeoman lists it as one of nature’s twelve survival plants, albeit at the bottom of his list. Nor does wild asparagus because I’ve only ever eaten it in France although Guy asssures me it can be found en Angleterre.

blog_021We came upon a wild marketplace of greenery under a canopy of trees suitably far away from the trampled path and its unfortunate inherent dogdoo. It was a sharp but sunny morning and I delighted upon small clumps of Good King Henry which I feaverishly picked and stuffed into an old bread bag. Picking free stuff is compelling but knowing when to stop is very important when one has limited fresh storage space as in our boat.

‘Are you sure this stuff really is Good King Henry?’ Mark ventures. Hmm. Well, I think so; it looks like it. It’s jolly reminiscent of spinach, look at the shape of its leaves. Anyway, I had just started reading Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’ and King Henry was very much in my thoughts. An omen then! It must be the right stuff.

Back at the boat I tried to get online to check my find in photographic form. Unsuccessful (internet connection failed again). Good Neighbour dropped by for a cup of tea and fetched his black and white botanical book. Oh yes, definitately Good King Henry. Plunge it into some water and get out the garlic and let the Freegan dinner begin with trumpet fanfares, doublet and hose!

blog_022Having fried my onion and garlic I added GKH. Adding my al dente curly pasta I prepared to make a white sauce. A taste test at this juncture perhaps? I speared a parcel of squeaky greenage and popped it in my mouth. Immediate stinging heat assaulted my tongue and right cheek! Speedy brain synapses ordered my mouth to spit out said parcel. My mouth watered and I instinctively knew not to swallow any remaining parcel juices. Feigning nonchalence I retreated to the bathroom sink to sluice out my mouth. This I had to continue with for ten minutes or so, never daring to swallow for fear my airway would balloon and our evening entertainment would be seeking the delights of Rugby A&E.

I took an antihistamine an hour later with a glass of soya milk. The inside of my cheek burned and the back of my tongue felt strangely foreign. I ordered Richard Mabey’s ‘Food for Free’ the next day and will hold it as a close travelling companion when foraging in future…

Maybe I’ll stick to nettle tea – readily identifiable: pain inducing on touch rather than taste.

Thanks to Donna, Mark (and Inky) for writing, and permission to publish, this.

Next – the Liveaboards visit the Crick Boat Show.

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

Facebook | Twitter

About | Terms | Privacy| Refunds & Returns| Sitemap | Contact Us

With over 800 pages, this website uses cookies to record visitor behaviour using Google Analytics. More information on Privacy Page. Page last updated: 05/06/2013.