Our co-owner and chef John Bradley says in the past five years he has seen an increase in the trend for food foraging in the area (2017).
But he warns that foragers do need to be responsible and to take care when picking and harvesting wild produce.
John says: “With regards to recent trends in the kitchen, there has been a much greater focus on not only general provenance and supporting local suppliers but even sourcing produce for yourself.
“This can be seen both in the rise of homegrown produce and, also, with chefs getting a little more adventurous out in the wilds of the countryside and foraging.
“Foraging is definitely the buzzword in today’s kitchens, a change we’ve seen in the past five years since we’ve lived on Exmoor, and there is an abundance of nature’s harvest to be had at the right times of the year here.
“We have foraged everything from sea beet and samphire from Porlock Salt Marsh to hedgerow berries in late summer and field mushrooms. But I have to stress, we are experts at this and know what we’re doing, what is safe to harvest and where we have permission to pick too.
“Locally-sourced ingredients are vital when it comes to the freshest and tastiest produce, and very little, other than items you grow for yourself, is stocked closer to home than food that comes from the wild.
“With some care for what you’re picking and eating, and maintaining excellent levels of hygiene, you can dine out on your own doorstep. There are plenty of wild options available such as nettle shoots and dandelions, and you don’t need to live in the countryside to cash in either.
“Towpaths and footpaths are popular pickers’ spots, but take extra care with hygiene in areas where dogs walk and if you’re picking close to busy and fast-moving roads, be careful and stay safe.
“Legally speaking, wild produce belongs to the landowner, so if you walk on private land you do need permission. The law does accept that you can harvest lightly while out for a general walk though.
“Public access and footpaths are fine but you must not pick protected species such as wild primroses. Remember not to overdo your picking either as the country’s wildlife relies on nature’s larder too.
“And take extra, extra care with any mushrooms you might find. It may be safest not to eat them as it takes a real expert to be sure they are safe and getting it wrong has been known to lead to serious, debilitating illnesses and in some cases death.”
John also grows his own produce in the hotel’s gardens and adopts a holistic approach to waste.
“Our garden plays host to a great selection of kitchen herbs, such as fennel, dill, rosemary, thyme, chives, sage, mint, lemon balm and edible flowers such as nasturtium and pansies for garnishing. Not to mention the vegetables grown in our own raised beds.
“We have grown leeks, courgettes, cavolo nero kale, Chantenay carrots, rhubarb, strawberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries, figs, salad leaves and much more during the season. Without taking up acres of space either. These have all found their way onto our menus as the seasons dictate and has reduced our carbon footprint as supplier vehicles don’t have to deliver so often.
“Any uncooked vegetable waste created in the kitchen is then returned to the compost heaps for another year to then be recycled as compost for the following years crops to grow in.”