From roots, berries, fruits and leaves, the capital is full of wild wonders ready to be foraged. We meet the hunter-gatherer drink producers who are getting a squeeze out of their blooming bounty.
In cider information
“It was our neighbour’s apple tree that got us thinking” says Roch, from London Glider. “Most of the apples on it would fall, rot and go to waste. We realised it was such a fantastic natural resource, so we salvaged them and made our first experimental batch of cider” she continues. “We then leafleted to about 60 of our neighbours offering to pick and collect their unwanted apples, and the response was overwhelming!”
Five years on, and London Glider’s ‘inquisitive endeavour’ has ripened into a fruitful brewing operation. “We now have 200 gardens on our books and we supply our clear, strong cider to a variety of pubs, shops and festivals”.
Foraging the gifts of the great outdoors is also what encouraged Natasha to set up The Urban Cordial Company. “It all began in my allotment” says Natasha. “I started to notice that what grew naturally could be used to make delicious treats – I started foraging elderflower and turning it into cordial. In my first year of production, I made 250 bottles, with 70% foraged fruit!”. Her craft cordial endeavour has somewhat bloomed since, boasting a range of flavours from blackberry and lavender to strawberry and sage. “My philosophy is, if it grows close together, it probably tastes good together”.
From the sprawling woodlands and hedgerows, parks and commons, railway embankments, canals and even roadsides, London is ripe with a wild windfall of goods, ready to be plucked, pressed and sipped. “Putting plants in alcohol has been going on for well over 1000 years” asserts Lottie, the Cocktail Gardener, who puts the rum in rummage with her unique plant-based cocktails.
But even with this swelling bounty, you can’t just plunder any old crop. “There are rules for foraging” warns Lottie. “respect conservation laws and leave plenty of plant behind to allow it to regenerate – over-foraging damages the ecosystem”.
Putting the ‘gin’ in foraging
The Foragers do exactly what they say on the tin. They are hunter-gatherer purists who walk, talk, eat and drink the wild, showcasing their delicious discoveries from the confines of their St Albans pub, The Verulam. “We rummage through hedgerows like kids in a sweetshop” declares Richard. “We use wild ingredients to brew beer in our own microbrewery, as well as make liqueur and cocktail syrups for use in our wild cocktails”.
It seems like elderflower is hugely popular amongst these budding alchemists, but is there anything more unusual to be had? “This year we’re infusing gin with the dreaded Japanese knotweed, to make a Japanese knotweed martini. It’s drunk through the hollow stem of the plant itself!”.
“Our relationship with the natural world has been almost lost” Richard laments. “We want to keep the joy of foraging alive – its time to get mud under your fingernails!”. Here, here!