Getting Our Hands Dirty – Foraging and Soil Science

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This week the Gastronomy MSc kicked off properly and Monday was a brilliant day – we were looking at Food Procurement – a brief history and consideration of the methods and location from which we acquire our food and how this shapes our relationship with the environment.

Foraging with Fi Martynoga
Foraging with Fi Martynoga

This included a guest lecture and foraging session with food historian and author Fi Martynoga. amazingly we found so many wild edibles within the campus environs – yarrow, hogweed, vetch, chamomile, brambles, rosehips, elderberries, barberries, beech nuts, hazelnuts, ground elder and also some leftover oats and barley – probably from a time when the land was farmed.

Tuesday began with a session in the campus allotment, it’s been a little neglected over the past year so our job will be to take it on and sort it out over the coming months. First, we got our hands dirty by examining the soil, looking for worms and testing the PH to see what we’ve got to play with.

Getting to grips with our campus allotments
Getting to grips with our campus allotments

This was followed by a lecture on understanding soil – love this quote “understanding soil isn’t rocket science, it’s far more complicated” Mark Kibblethwaite.

We also had a guest lecture from Dr Kenneth Loades from the James Hutton Institute who gave us a fascinating insight into Scottish soils, agriculture, root systems, erosion, the yield gap and other issues for soil and ultimately our food and drink supply.

Green Manure Seeds
Green Manure Seeds

We took a brief look at urban agriculture as well. So far so good, this is going to be one very interesting course. Off the back of this we discovered that Whitmuir Organic Farm, just along the road, is running a series of participative workshops with scientists, farmers, politicians and other interested parties over the coming months – I’ve applied to be part of this, couldn’t be more relevant so fingers crossed. More info here

On of my fellow cohorts, who also has a particular interest in gardening, kindly gave me some ‘Green Manure Seeds’ to try out as a soil improver through the Winter. I’ve got Red Clover, Winter Tares & Italian Ryegrass – the idea is to plant them now let them grow and in the Spring cut them back, cover with a good layer of compost/manure and sow our next lot of crops in much enriched soil. Really looking forward to seeing how they work!

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