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I now run wild food and useful plant days for children and have worked with St Buryan Primary School and with the National Trust at Trevean Farm, nr Zennor, St Ives, as part of their ongoing education programme.
These sessions are usually half day events exploring the countryside and discovering the historical and present day uses of the every day plants you find around you.
Every wild plant had a use historically whether it was for food, medicine, clothing, dye, bedding, construction, furniture, cooking, heating or for animal food and bedding.
Its a journey of discovery for children (and their teachers!) to go back in time and find out how people relied on these plants for everything.
We look at both edible and poisonous plants and begin to see that there are many crossovers between each of the categories of uses for these plants.
Through these sessions we can explore history, ecology, science, farming, cooking and art.
The children get to sample some of the wild foods both freshly picked and prepared by myself.
Simple (child friendly) wild food dishes such as nettle soup, fruit leather and elderflower cordial are made for the children to taste.
These days can be designed for any age and be purely for fun or they can be tied in with the National Curriculum.
These days are a breath of fresh air and great to have the children learning in nature.
I have an ongoing research project with Plymouth University looking at the heavy metal contamination of seaweeds and estuarine plants growing around the coast of Cornwall.
I have always been concerned about the contamination of our water courses with agricultural and industrial run-off and as I have been consuming quite a lot of seaweed I want to know if and where the seaweeds are contaminated. I am sampling the following seaweeds, which are the main species I consume: laver (Porphyra umbiliculis), kelp (Laminaria digitata), carragheen (Chondrus crispus), sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca), dulse (Palmaria palmata) and gutweed (Enteromorpha intestinalis).
I am also sampling estuarine plant species such as marsh samphire (Salicornia spp.), sea purslane (Atriplex portulacoides) and aquatic species such as watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum). Seaweeds are bio- accumulators of heavy metals and since Cornwall has a long mining history there is some worry that there may be high levels of heavy metals in the sediments of estuaries and in coastal waters.
All plants act differently in the way they uptake environmental contaminants so it is difficult to predict which may store high levels of heavy metals in their stems and leaves. These seaweeds samples are being tested at Plymouth University for chromium, nickel, copper, arsenic, selenium, silver, cadmium, mercury and lead.
The results of this testing will help to decide which picking sites are least contaminated in West Cornwall and will give peace of mind for me and my fellow foragers.
I am really keen to broaden this research to go further afield, particularly to places which have a thriving seaweed industry. I would also like to look at the impact of agricultural contaminants in the future.
Location & Contact : Fat Hen, Gwenmenhir, Boscawen-noon Farm, St Buryan, Penzance, Cornwall TR19 6EH | Tel. 01736 810156 | firstname.lastname@example.org