Leeds office worker spends 15 hours a week ‘shopping’ in nature

A Leeds office worker says she spends up to 15 hours a week ''shopping'' in nature. Lisa Cutcliffe, 42, spends much of her days hunting for nuts, fruits and shellfish and says half of her pantry consists of foraged foods.

She even keeps a "larder" in the boot of her van made up of foraged berry chutneys, mushroom powder for soups and stews and wild garlic salt for seasoning. It was porcini mushrooms that first triggered her to look outside of supermarkets for her provisions.

She now finds her own ingredients in the forests and fields around her home. Lisa said: "I love foraging and for me - it's a lifestyle.

"It can be a sociable activity but also great to go along solo and get lost in nature's cupboard. I've always been a foodie; I don't just care about the taste but ensuring that my food is sustainable and in line with my values.

"I have a larder in the boot of my van full of foraged ingredients to add to what I find on my travels.'' Growing up in Hampshire, Lisa has always had a keen interest in nature which didn't change when she went to university to read Biology.

But it wasn't until 2000, while watching a cooking show, that she realised porcini mushrooms grow in the UK- sparking her interest in foraging. She decided to get into foraging after making a mushroom risotto, using expensive supermarket porcini mushrooms, which sparked a ''lifelong interest''.

In her 20s, Lisa began to explore the local woodland and was shocked to find ''a plethora of fungi''. After a couple of years, she moved on to plants and trees with wild strawberries, lime leaves and blueberries.

Lisa Cutcliffe with foraged mushrooms

"Starting out, I couldn't believe what I was able to find." Lisa, who can be found on Instagram @eduliswildfood, said. "The variety of fungi is enchanting- they're still a firm foraging favourite now. The best meal I've even been able to make is humble mushrooms on toast.

"I've never had a bad experience eating what I've foraged because I've always been careful to make sure I do my research first. You've got to get to know exactly what you're looking for. My friends are really supportive and love that I've found my passion.

"They occasionally join me which is always fun and I like to give some pickles and chutneys I've foraged as Christmas gifts so they can have a jar of nature in their supplies." By 2005, Lisa was starting to forage more exotic foods like clams and scallops.

In April 2013, Lisa set up her own foraging business which she runs alongside her full-time job, offering bespoke classes on how to forage sustainably and effectively which has gone from ''strength to strength''. Aligning the courses with the foraging seasons -Spring and Autumn- Lisa runs weekly classes from foraging days to wild cocktail sessions.

Although mainly running them solo, Lisa occasionally collaborates with environmental charities for educational workshops and local chefs for cooking classes. Now Lisa says she forages independently up to three times a week for her own supplies- spending up to five hours outside at a time to replenish her pantry with nuts and roots, as well as her fridge with shellfish such as muscles and cockles.

Raw razorclam maki rolls

"99% of my freezer is made up of wild foods I've foraged like berries, meats, seafood and fungi" Lisa said. "Eating seasonally is so important and you notice it in the taste of the food as well. Some of my best friends are black trumpet mushrooms, hen of the woods, pepper dulse seaweed and mulberries.

"I'm easy to feed which might shock people as I'm so fascinated by food. It's more about the quality of the food rather than the dish itself. I buy from the supermarkets, local butchers and farm shops which means the money I save on foraging is spent on quality produce.

"It's not about saving money, it's about making sure the food I eat is in line with my values. Anyone interested, do some research and get out there- you'll be surprised what you may find."

Typical foraged meals:

Venison Rosehip Puree Bolognese with Sea Spaghetti SeaweedChicken of the Woods Thai Green CurryWild Garlic and Foraged Mushroom LasagneMushroom and Halloumi MasalaRazor Clam Sushi RollsMackerel Sushami

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