Sunday, 25 May 2014

Foraging & wild food in the Limousin

The Limousin region is an abundant, fertile area rich with wildlife and natural vegetation.  On a short walk in the forests and countryside around our home I can find wild sorrel, elderflower, beech nuts, nettles, and an abundance of wild fruits - from cherry, strawberries and apples to rosehips and blackberries. You have got to be quicker than the birds to get the wild cherries though!  I am still learning, as there is much more to discover, but I thoroughly enjoy cooking and eating the abundance of wild food that I find in the Limousin, and look forward to what each new season brings. 


rosehip in bud
wild cherry blossom
ripening wild cherries
Foraging for wild food is natural to the rural French way of life.  It was a way of eating for free when times were hard and supplementing the diet with healthy, fresh foods full of nutrients.  It is a traditional skill held in rural communities across the world, that will die out if people are not willing to learn and have these skills passed on, instead choosing the convenience of ready packed and pre-prepared foods.  It's also a great way of trying new foods and flavours that can't be bought in the shops and adds a bit of creativity to your usual cooking repertoire.  

One of my favourite foraged foods to cook with is wild sorrel - which is abundant at this time of year in the Limousin.  Sorrel has got a lemon-spinach flavour - and is great made into a pesto or raw in salads - and is particularly good in a potato salad with mint and dill.  Elizabeth David in her classic book; French Provincial Cookery also has some simple and delicious recipes for sorrel soup.  


Elizabeth David - picture credit wikipedia
wild sorrel
Foraging for mushrooms, and in particular the prized cep (or cepe) is a common pastime in rural Limousin.  However finding out where to find this elusive fungi appears to be a case of; 'its not what you know but who you know'.  I have been told tales of locals being followed and rival fungi foragers hiding behind trees to find out the 'best spot'.  All in the name of friendly competition I am sure!  


Cèpe de Bordeaux (Boletus edulis)
The Cepe - picture credit: wikipedia
Another wild food that the Limousin region is famous for is the chestnut (or chataigne) - the best being the Marigoule and Bouche de Betizac.  They are used in patés, cakes, jams and the chestnut blood sausage - boudins aux chataignes.  The Perigord-Limousin chestnut has AOC status and is internationally renowned for its superior quality and flavour.  I like them simply roasted or stir-fried and added to slow cooked red-cabbage - a great side dish with roast duck.  

With all foraging, always get expert advice and don't pick or eat anything that you are not completely sure of. The pharmacies in the region are often a good source of information - particularly in helping to identify mushrooms. There are also courses and training available in foraging and wild food too if you want to learn more.  

I hope you get a chance to visit the beautiful Limousin region soon and explore the unspoilt countryside and wild food on offer - and you never know if you are very lucky a kindly local may even show you where to find the elusive cep!  

Bon Appetit!  









We look forward to welcoming you at De Tout Coeur Limousin.  Do please get in touch and check out our website for more information about our accommodation and holidays in the beautiful Limousin.

An edited version of this post is also on Travel France Online - a great Free Online Resource that helps you discover and enjoy French History and Culture.  

2 comments:

  1. Beautiful photographs and text thank you! How lovely to use what Nature offers.

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  2. Thanks Susan - it is lovely to get out foraging - a nice addition to a walk with old eric the dog :-)

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