South of Scotland nature festivals call on support for revival of wild foods and conservation of local food resources

Two of the south of Scotland’s prestigious nature festivals are uniting in a call for people to support the revival of wild food trends and the conservation of food produced from our natural environment.

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As part of Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, The Dumfries and Galloway Wild Spring Festival and the Scottish Borders Nature Festival today (Monday 30 March) revealed a programme of events from April to June 2015, which will help festival-goers to safely experience the burgeoning wild food revival and learn more about the role they can play in supporting the conservation of local food at nature’s source.

1 a 1 a wildlife 2Starting this weekend with a series of Easter themed events, the festivals hope that their Year of Food and Drink Scotland activities will help to reconnect people with their local environment and the important role wild food plays in the production of quality sustainable food.

Ali Murfitt, a professional forager and herbalist, who is leading a number of events at both the Dumfries & Galloway Wild Spring Festival and the Scottish Borders Nature Festivals, explains why she believes food foraging is not just a trend, but a necessity:

“Foraging inspires and helps people to love the nature on their doorstep. It highlights how much wild land, habitat and plants we have lost (and are continuing to loose) and how important it is to get involved or support habitat restoration and conservation. If native trees are chopped down or ecological habitats destroyed, we lose an important and sustainable source of delicious and healthy gourmet ingredients, which are greatly valued by some of the UK’s top chefs and mixologists.”

“To learn which wild food you can and can’t eat is also extremely empowering. Suddenly the brown field site on the edge of your town becomes no longer a waste ground, but a place where coltsfoot flowers can be harvested and blackberries devoured. That row of birch trees once unnoticed become the special spot where you go and harvest mushrooms in the autumn time.”

One of the Scottish Borders Nature Festival events that will be led by Ali takes place at Abbotsford, home of the world-renowned Scottish novelist, playwright and poet Sir Walter Scott. Participants at the special event will discover some of the locally-sourced herbal remedies that were so important to Scott*. Today there are over 200 species of flora still to be found at Abbotsford.

Describing further benefits of taking part in the festivals’ food foraging events, one of the UK’s foremost foraging tutors and wild food cooks Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods said:

“The foraging events at the South of Scotland wild festivals’ will play an important role in teaching participants how to source their own food responsibly and in turn how they can help to reduce food miles by truly eating locally.

“Each of my events will also be great fun for adults and children alike, and will allow those taking part to sample some delicious gourmet food sourced from one of the finest areas in the UK (and quite possibly the world) for foraging. The mild, sheltered climate and huge range of habitats means the south of Scotland boasts a stunning range of delicious wild foods.”

Mark is organising a selection of foraging walks and wild cook-ins during the Dumfries & Galloway Wild Spring Festival.

For the latest news about The Dumfries & Galloway Wild Spring Festival and the Scottish Borders Nature Festival visit www.wildseasons.co.uk.

Speaking about the new programme revealed today, Fiona Richmond Scotland Food & Drink Project Manager said: “This collaboration is a great example of some of the numerous events taking place across the country during the Year of Food and Drink which will continue to grow the already successful industry whilst highlighting Scotland’s fantastic larder and producers.

“Thanks to our excellent provenance and the quality of our natural ingredients, we’re rightly reputed as a Land of Food and Drink. Visitors and residents alike are increasingly interested in learning about food and its origins – what better way to discover what is on offer than foraging in the countryside.”

Talking about the festivals Paula McDonald, Regional Director for VisitScotland added: “Nature festivals are a brilliant way to bring whole generations of families and friends together to learn new things and share special memories. The south of Scotland has incredible and unique wildlife experiences that you can’t see anywhere else in the world making this a must visit, must visit again destination.”

“In this, Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, we have provided funding for events in the area including Castle Douglas Food Town and Borders Book Festival, and we hope that this will help position the region as a destination for great quality, natural produce as well as a place to discover great visitor attractions, year-round events and quality accommodation.”

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