The Lake District is well known for its fantastic local produce.
All across Cumbria, farmers, butchers, bakers and producers of all types offer the best in everything from lamb and beef to cheese, chutney and beer.
However, this isn’t the only place where you’ll find tasty ingredients. The woodlands, hedgerows and meadows offer their own produce in the form of leaves, mushrooms and nuts, which can all be used to make a wide variety of delicious recipes.
One person who knows just where to look is Katherine Beaumont, director of Full Circle Experiences, in Rydal, near Grasmere. Katherine runs a range of activities, including horse riding, packhorse treks and yoga retreats, as well as taking people out to learn about foraging.
As Katherine explains, there is plenty of food to be found in the Lakes.
“A big part of what we do is about helping people learn more about nature through foraging for food,” she says.
“We really want people to go away with a better appreciation of nature, how important and beautiful it is and how important it is to look after it.
"You can't expect people to want to protect something which they don’t care about and they won’t care about it unless they know more. We show them the playground that's available to them and how they can access lots of resources while consuming very little. We find that people get absorbed very quickly and really drop into the landscape.
“We'll use and learn about anything from tree bark to mushrooms to flowers and plants. At this time of year there's lots of edible flowers that we can pop in salads. The wild garlic in the woodlands at the moment is delicious and we go back to our campfire and we learn about the ways we can use them in our cooking.
“You can also look for something like Chicken of the Woods, which is a large edible fungus that looks a bit like builders’ insulation foam on the side of a tree. It’s bright yellow. If you find one of them it’s time to have a party, they are really fantastic.
“There are lots of plants and flowers you can eat this time of year. You can eat the whole of the dandelion plant. For example, you can put the petals in a salad or you can use the roots as a substitute coffee.
“Then there are cleavers, which are the sticky buds you used to chuck on each other when you were walking home from school. I usually put them in an omelette, they are an absolutely delicious vegetable.
“Then there are endless things you can make nettles into; nettle tea, nettle beer, nettle pesto. Rose petals, violets and pansies are all beautiful in salads as well. Chickweed is delicious too. You can eat beech leaves off the trees as well and they are a really good source of vitamin C.
“It’s not difficult to head out and begin foraging for yourself. I always have a mushroom and plant identifier app on my phone. They’re not 100 per cent reliable but they can help give you an idea and there are also loads of groups you can join on social media where people will share information and advice.
“More people are turning to foraging and I think the Lake District is becoming a mecca for wellness. More and more people are focused on rewilding and reconnecting with nature and the land. I think people separating themselves from nature is a fundamental cause of the psychological distress many people feel and I think lots of them are feeling a real calling to come back.
"I like seeing people at their best and often when they’re out foraging people really open up and they're more in tune with themselves and they're more connected with each other. They feel that they value themselves a bit more because they've experienced the goodness of life without producing anything or consuming anything. The value is just being here and walking the earth and enjoying where you are.”
Find out more about Full Circle Experiences at www.fullcircleexperiences.uk