Ivan Tisdall-Downes and Imogen Davis co-founded Native as a street-food stall way before a sustainable ethos became cool ¨C making the most of the UK¡¯s wild and wonderful ingredients. Now their bricks-and-mortar restaurant in Borough has a mission to champion foraged ingredients in creative ways, and to avoid food waste by using kitchen off-cuts in the daily-changing menu of snacks. Here, they give us their top foraging tips, in partnership with Victorinox.
¡®Foraging is a great way to see the world ¨C even London is an edible larder and not just a concrete jungle as people might think. On the way to work, sitting on a train, you can probably see elderflowers or three-cornered garlic, and it just makes the world a happier place. Foraging is something everyone can do; there are heathlands and woods, even forests, all over the city that are full of edible berries and herbs. It only takes a small detour and you could probably be walking through a beautiful, lush green park where there¡¯s everything from dandelion leaves and sorrel to cherries on the trees. Start picking them to see the whole world in a different way ¨C it feels like a deep breath in this kind of busy city life.
Foraging is an opportunity to get lost in the woods, and not be contactable ¨C putting your phone away and getting back to the primal instincts of things. It¡¯s very hard to have an adventure in the world at the moment because everyone is just looking at their phones, but wandering in a forest is a wonderful way to escape city life.
We go out foraging once a week, often to the south coast to get our sea vegetables. And one of our chefs cycles in from Essex ¨C he will often jump off the cycle path to forage wild cherries and more and often comes in with scratches all down his arm.
We truly let the land dictate what is going to be on the menu at Native, so instead of calling up our suppliers and saying we want 100 sirloins of beef we ask them what’s available to us. If we have a deer shot, then that goes on the menu ¨C the whole animal instead of ordering one piece and likewise with the fruit and vegetables. We have to be on our toes, changing the menu as frequently as we need to.
Every day is like an episode of Ready Steady Cook. We open the cupboard, see what there is and create a menu. The younger chefs love it too ¨C there¡¯s a section on our menu called Wasting Snacks where we try to create small dishes from things people would normally throw in the bin such as cauliflower leaves, broccoli stalks etc. It¡¯s a great way for them to be creative and get some stuff on the menu, and ensure that no perfectly good ingredients are discarded.
We have been concentrating on being super-sustainable since day one. Our target is to be 99 per cent zero waste ¨C but it¡¯s about so much more than the restaurant itself. You have to have your whole network, supply chain and waste-management systems on board too, so it will take a little time. It¡¯s about giving as much respect to the produce as you can and not wanting to waste any part of an animal.¡¯
IVAN AND IMOGEN¡¯S TOP TIPS AND TRICKS FOR FORAGING IN THE UK