The wild taste of Wales
Buchi’s favourite foraging spot for rich pickings is Cwn Einion, also known as the Artist’s Valley, a scenic semi-shaded wooded glen just two miles from Ynyshir Hall. The valley is the part-time home of former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant who has a farm house estate in the vale, and it has become something of a pilgrimage site for fans. Since the mid-1970s, the valley has been renowned as the place where Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page wrote the rock epic Stairway to Heaven.
Moments from the single-track road that winds up the valley, Buchi unearthed a fresh cluster of blossoming wild garlic growing on the moist, fertile banks of the river Cwm Einion. It tastes like chive, he said, and he recommended using it to stuff fish, make pesto or add to a salad. Disappearing behind some trees, he then spotted wood sorrel – a bitter-tasting grass used for light garnishes – and filled his basket to take it back to the hotel kitchen. He explained that later in the year when it is in season, he will return to pick the yellow gorse flowers (which have a distinct coconut taste) to use in meat marinades and Thai curries, as well as burdock root, which is popular in Japanese cooking and can be used for vegetable soups or mixed with dandelion to make a root beer-like soft drink.
“Food foraging needs to be done in a sustainable way,” he said, gathering up another handful of wild buds. “It’s important to only pick the leaves and leave the bulbs in the ground for the following year. We need to work with nature rather than against it. Ultimately, it really is that easy.”