The launch party for Miles Irving’s The Forager Handbook a couple of nights ago served up some great cocktails – mean mojitos and cherry whisky sours – and moreish canapes, but there was no disgruntled crush at the bar. Could this be because most of the guests usually have to wade through thorns to get their sustenance? You could tell the foragers from the other folk since, in the chrome and glass, city trader-environs of The Paternoster Chophouse in St Paul’s, they were the ones wearing shorts, with brown faces. Miles himself, longish hair and three-quarter length trousers was in happy mood as he signed copies and chatted to some of the chefs he supplies with foraged finds, such as The Paternoster Chop House’s Peter Weeden and Simon Wadham, head chef of The Rivington Bar and Grill who zips between the Shoreditch and Greenwich branches on his motorbike.
Anne Misselbrooke, a forager who supplies Miles with plants from Cornwall, has no time for gardening. ‘I can’t be bothered,’ she said, ‘foraging is so much easier.’ Comparing my dressing-gowned pottering in SE10 with scrabbling around on a windswept beach for sea purslane and sea beet, I didn’t get it, till she explained, ‘You’re always having to battle against pests to keep plants alive. In the wild, something’s either there, and healthy, or it isn’t there at all.’ Flashes of nasturtiums and broad beans bowed under the weight of blackfly and ants and daily blasted by the garden hose in a vain attempt to win the fight came into my mind, and I rather saw her point. She’s going with natural selection, we gardeners battle it all the way.