Our speaker in April was Chris Bax, a forager who lives near Knaresborough and is becoming well-known in food circles.
Chris took us through a fascinating “walk” around woodland, roadsides and the coast, looking at pictures of all the natural plants that can be eaten safely. We were told what time of year to pick the various leaves, how to use them in salads and how they can be included in other recipes, such as soup.
There were a few surprises along the way, such as some plants being edible despite it being common belief that they are poisonous. However, Chris warned us to be careful too – it is all too easy to confuse an edible plant with an inedible one which looks quite similar and give yourself serious stomach problems. But he told us the key identifying traits to look out for to keep us safe and reassured us that, in all the years he has been foraging, he has never poisoned himself or his family!
Chris is becoming very well known and has taken part in several television programmes about foraging and cooking with wild plants. When he visited us, he told us he was due to appear on Countryfile a few days later, and that he was working on a top-secret new project with a famous chef. He runs courses throughout the year, but they are in high demand so have to be booked a long way in advance.
For more about Chris Bax, visit his website.
A wet and windy night meant our demonstrator for the December meeting was unable to make it to Harrogate.
But we were rescued by an intrepid team of women from elsewhere in the federation, who very kindly offered to help out at the last minute. Decorative wreaths must be a mainstay of WIs across the country, because they all knew exactly what they were doing despite having just a few hours’ notice!
With a record-breaking number of ladies attending, the room was soon filled with sprigs of greenery, clumps of berries and sparkling bows and baubles. As our friendly helpers walked around supervising our efforts, dozens of beautiful, individual creations began to take shape.
It was interesting to see how different some of the wreaths could look, even though most of us were using the same materials. Some were very neat and well manicured with tiny foil-wrapped presents and miniature baubles on them, while others were more natural-looking, with larger pieces of holly and ivy and making use of natural decorations such as cut flowers and pine cones.
As our final meeting of the year, it was a great way to celebrate together – a room full of laughter and everyone taking something home at the end. It was also a good thing we had moved venue because we could never have fitted all those ladies, plus the oasis rings and bags full of branches, into the room at the Conservative Club! But it was a great sign of just how well the group is going that so many people turned up to what was only our third full meeting.
Merry Christmas everyone, and we look forward to seeing you all again throughout 2012!