Foraging is a fantastic approach to sustainability and using fresh local produce. Our Head Chef here at Loch Melfort Hotel, Michael Knowles, and his team are dedicated to using the very best ingredients in all of our dishes, with the sourcing of our food very important to us so that our guests can enjoy the highest quality and freshness.
As Head Chef Michael Knowles points out, ‘we have an abundance of highly nutritious plants including sea aster, sea lettuce and pepper dulce which can be harvested regardless of season and weather from around the shoreline by the hotel’.
Dulse is one of our favourite ingredients here at Loch Melfort, due to its versatility and flavour. If you choose to head down to the shore and collect your own seaweed here are a few helpful tips you should remember: check what stage of the season you’re picking – the nutritional value of the dulse changes according to the age of the plant; make sure to check the tide times before leaving to make sure you have plenty of time to collect your seaweed.
Once you’ve successfully trawled the seashore for your seaweed, to get it ready for consumption there are a few steps to take first. Firstly rinse it in fresh or sea water to remove any barnacles and sea creatures, but the seaweed will preserve better with natural salt in it. To dry the seaweed out you can chose one of two options: either leave it in a very cool oven (40C/105F) overnight, or place in a hot oven and check very regularly. Remove it when it crumbles easily. When it’s dry and crumbles easily, store in sealed bags or jars in a cool, dark place.
Autumn is one of the best times of year to go foraging, with more locally foraged ingredients appearing on our menu. Scotland’s coast is prime foraging territory, and the surrounding area of Argyll is abundant with plants and herbs to harvest. We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to showcase hand foraged wild nettles, wild mushrooms, wild garlic, blackberries, wood-sorrel, wild raspberries, Douglas fir pine needles, watercress, salsify, meadow-sweet, damson quince and Loch Melfort sea salt on our menu.
Foraging is a wonderful combination of exploring the countryside and delighting in finding nature’s secrets. ‘One of my prizes finds is saffron milk caps – rather tricky to find, but all the more rewarding when you stumble upon them’, according to Mike. Although edible mushrooms are extremely delicious, do be sensible and leave unfamiliar fungi alone.
We look forward to letting you see the delicious things we can do with nature’s surprises very soon!