We are massive fans of flavoured tonic here at VOC so we were delighted to meet Dr. Vic Sedman (above left) and Dr. Jen Loxton (above right) who have put together some serious PHD know how and created Edible Hedgerow.
Using foraged ingredients from Scotland they have created a range of beautiful, botanical tonics. I asked Jen all about it and managed to get a few foraging tips too. Cos, you know, I love a forage!
So, how did it all start? Tell us about Edible Hedgerow.
Vic and I been great friends since school as well as business partners and have been thinking about launching a business together for the last few years. On a walking/foraging holiday in the Lake District at the end of last summer we decided that the time was right to take the plunge.
We launched Edible Hedgerow with the aim of making delicious products from all-natural British ingredients, many of which are foraged from or inspired by hedgerows. Our first product range is called Culpeper Tonics, a range of flavoured tonic waters.
Tell us about your love for foraging. Where did that come from?
This most definitely started with Vic. Since she was a child Vic has been growing and gathering produce with her family who were very enthusiastic about allotments and gardening and taught her everything she knows. Vic’s wild jams and chutneys are legendary amongst our friends!
I, on the other hand, came to foraging rather later in life, about 5 years ago. I lived for a stint in the Scottish Highlands and an unexpected encounter with a huge patch of bilberries (wild blueberries) converted me to the amazing tastes of wild food. Since then we have explored many parts of the UK together, exploring flavours.
What sort of things can we easily forage at this time of year?
Many people think you can only forage in the Summer but actually there are still quite a few things to gather now! One of my favourites is gorse blossom, which smells amazingly of coconut when it is fresh and tastes almost tropical too.
Douglas fir is also pickable year round and the needles have wonderful citrus/bitter orange taste with just an after-thought of pine. In the woodland you can still find big patches of wood sorrel, which I think of as natures version of a zingy sour-sweet – it makes a great garnish!
Are there any cautions we should consider when eating things we pick?
Yes! Only pick things which you are absolutely sure you have identified correctly. If you aren’t 100% certain then don’t pick it! Only gather from places where you have the landowners permission and never take more than you need or more than a plant can give you without being harmed. Make sure you always leave plenty for the birds, animals and creepy crawlies.
What’s your favourite foraged garnish or tonic flavour? Maybe you can give us a mocktail recipe?
I think that my favourite tonic flavour is In the Forest. It is made from Douglas fir needles, young birch leaves and just a hint of oak smoke. It is citrusy and fresh with just a subtle hint of pine – like a walk in the woods captured in a glass.
I like to serve it over lots of ice and garnished with a Douglas fir sugar rim. Here’s how to create a Douglas Fir rimmed glass.
- Blitz equal parts Douglas fir and granulated sugar in a spice grinder
- Dry and re-grind.
- Dip a damp glass rim in your bright green sugar
- Garnish with a sprig of wood sorrel and maybe an edible flower
We recently wrote about roses. What other edible flowers can we sprinkle on our granola or steep in hot water for tea?
As I already mentioned, I am a massive gorse flower fan – if you want something that’s available right now then give it a try! A tablespoon of fresh gorse in a mug of hot water makes a gorgeous tea. There are lots of other edible wild flowers out there too such as primroses, heather blossom, clover flowers, violets and even dandelion heads!
Many blossoms are delicious too, such as elderflowers, bramble flowers or cherry blossom – just be carefully not to take too many or you won’t get any fruit later in the year.
If you don’t have much access to the wild then you can also find tasty and beautiful flowers in your garden. My mum is getting rather impatient with me using her garden pansies, violas and cornflowers to garnish my drinks whenever I visit!
How are you making all this happen?
We have set up a Crowdfunding page if people would like to be a part of our journey. We have our recipes, our garden, our kitchens, and our trusted bottler and distributors ready. Now we need help to make our first bottling runs possible so that we can launch Culpeper Tonics across the UK.
If you would like to help Jen and Vic on their way then go to: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/culpeper-tonics