MONICA Wilde says she would happily never visit a supermarket again.
Monica, 52, is a renowned research herbalist, ethnobotanist and forager who has been intrigued by plants and herbs for almost all of her 52 years.
London-born Monica, who is also managing director of Napiers the Herbalists, is an expert at foraging for wild food as well as wild medicine.
She said: “Foraging is addictive. We still have to buy certain things at the supermarket, mainly because it takes time to live sustainably.
"If you go to work during the day, which I do at Napiers most days, then you don’t have the time to go completely independent of the supermarket, but there are some very good health reasons for doing more foraging."
She has become known for leading educational foraging expeditions.
The next one, Edible Hedgerow, takes place in Edinburgh on March 26 and in Glasgow on April 2. Sign up and you’ll learn how to find edible wild plants suitable for either a smoothie or a gourmet meal.
Foraging, she says, "is totally instinctual. It connects with a part of us that is as old as the hills.
"Sometimes I’ve been asked to do foraging with companies, with firms of accountants or wine importers or what-have-you. I’ve had situations where guys who are corporate executives, who are really busy and are building businesses and are really switched on, have come on a foraging walk as part of a corporate day.
“You can see at the beginning how they take the view of ‘yeah, we’ll have a laugh’, but at the end of it, some of them are almost tearful. Some of them have shiny, tear-y eyes and they’ll go: ‘I enjoyed myself so much – I can’t believe how I lost all sense of time. I didn’t even think to look at my email or my phone’.
“You just become so engrossed. It’s very liberating. I think it gives you the same sort of feeling as you get from meditation. For hundreds of thousands of years, an ability to spot your food has been integral to existence. It’s part of the psyche.”
She talks knowledgeably about how our ancestors used to know how to cycle through the food groups. “People wonder why, when they eat sandwiches for lunch every single day, and have cornflakes every single day for breakfast, they get to their 40s and suddenly find they’re gluten-intolerant. We were never meant to eat the same thing day in and day out. Our bodies have this capacity for an enormous diversity of foodstuffs, but our capacity for gluttony has been what has been our downfall in terms of the modern diet. We’ve forgotten that variety really is absolutely essential for us.”
She lives in a self-built wooden house “on four wild acres” in Gowanbank, West Lothian,
Speaking of food, what will she have for dinner tonight? She laughs again. “Bean stew. I’ve been soaking various kinds of beans but will probably have a wander around and see what else I can add into it.
“Normally when I’m driving home I’ll go over the Blackridge Heights and pull over and see what I can find. You might find this abandoned little Matiz car somewhere and you’ll know I’ll be off in the woods somewhere, or a ditch, looking for edible food. At this time of year, though, it’s lean pickings. You need to have worked hard during the summer to have saved up your food for the winter.”
** Napiers the Herbalists: www.napiers.net; Monica’s wild food walks can be found at www.monicawilde.com.