An Interview with Amber Westfall from The Wild Garden in Ottawa

Back in March I had the pleasure of speaking with Amber Westfall, forager and owner of The Wild Garden in Ottawa, Canada. Amber is heavily involved with foraging for wild edibles and medicinal plants, and she devotes her time to this and running a small-scale business that delivers foraged boxes in the post every month.

Wild Garden Ottawa
The Wild Garden Ottawa

I was interested in learning more about Amber and the work she’s doing out in Ottawa so I had a chat with her, the transcript you can find below. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed speaking with her, she was incredibly knowledgeable about many wild plants and refreshingly enthusiastic about foraging and permaculture!


Pickled Hedgehog Mushrooms Recipe

New guest blogger Phil and her recipe for pickled hedgehog mushrooms

“Hello” to all fellow foragers here! My name is Phil. I am a food blogger, cook and forager from Vienna, Austria, and the nice people (Matt & Silvia!) from asked me to join them and share some insights and recipes related to foraging here. And I am excited to do so!

First on my list – and requested by popular demand – is my recipe for pickled hedgehog mushrooms.

Acorns & Nuts

Now is the Perfect Time to pick Hazelnuts or Cobnuts

Now is the perfect time to be harvesting and collecting Hazelnuts (or Cobnuts) from trees and hedgerows in the wild. There are many different Hazelnut trees growing throughout the United Kingdom, especially in places like Kent, Dorset, Worcestershire and Devon. They are still grown commercially in many of these locations, though when cultivated or grown this way the nut is usually larger, and is referred to as a Cobnut.

Seashore & Rivers

The best way to cook your foraged mussels.

Mussels (Mytilus edulis) are a common ingredient in Spanish cuisine. They are cooked in many different ways, either just boiled with a squeeze of lemon juice over them, or even better, added to stews or paella.
After spending a couple of weeks in Galicia (north-west corner of Spain) and trying a few of these plates made by locals, I found that my absolute favourite is as easy to make as it is delicious.

Foraging for seafood in Galicia is, however, forbidden by law, as there are professional “Marisqueiros” (seafood collectors), who need to have a license to catch and sell the fruits of their seas. Thankfully, the situation in the UK is different and makes it possible for seafood-lovers to make a trip to their nearest beach and try to find these little black-and-orange animals. The amount and size of mussels you find around the coasts of the British Isles are much smaller than in Galicia, so make sure you don’t take more than you need and let the small ones continue to live on the rocks.  It’s also really important to try and get advice from the locals before you go out foraging for mussels, as they may be kind enough to warn you of issues with water quality, local sewage outflow pipes (which you’d want to avoid for obvious reasons), and anything else you may need to be aware of, including any kind of local bylaws preventing the collecting of the mussels.

Berries, Sweets & Syrups

How to make wild strawberry jam

If you are lucky enough to have wild strawberries growing in your back garden or you to live close to a place where you can collect them, you have to give this delicious wild strawberry jam a try!

The wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca), also known as an Alpine or Woodland strawberry, is a delicious if not quite small version of their cultivated cousin. They’re normally just a few millimeters in length, rarely growing to anything near a standard strawberry from your local supermarket. But what they lack in size, they definitely make up for in taste, packing a really strong, concentrated flavour. You’ll typically find alpine strawberries at the edge of woods and mountains (hence the name Alpine, which refers to the mountain range the Alps) where they like to grow in shady and slightly damp conditions.