21 March 2007, 15:31 PM
  • Ed Haigh at BigBarn offers his thoughts on seeking out the wildest products to achieve high sales

Staying ahead of the game in the speciality food market means a constant search for the best products, from the best suppliers, at the best price. So, if you were told that you could source a great product, from a great supplier, free of charge, you’d be more than a little interested, right?

Well, good news, folks, the drive towards local, seasonal and speciality food has opened up a new market that delivers just that. You see, the more that people are finding out about what’s growing locally, and in season, the more they are becoming interested in what’s growing wild. And growing wild usually means growing free.

What’s more, with the likes of Ray Mears and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as popular as ever, the wild food market is getting the sort of TV coverage that highly paid PR executives couldn’t manufacture in a lifetime of champagne quaffing. And, in turn, what that’s breeding is a growing number of armchair foragers, who are eager to accompany Ray Mears on his journey into the woods from the comfort of their armchair, but aren’t making the transition from telly to welly once the program’s over. And there’s the opportunity.

An increasing number of farmers’ markets are now sporting some sort of wild food stall, run by intrepid foragers who’ll do the welly-wearing and the food gathering for you. One of them is professional forager, Andrew Sartain. Andrew used to work as a chef in a number of Michelin-starred restaurants, but left to pursue a new life foraging for the best wild food and selling it back to the restaurant trade and the general public. His website, www.gourmetfungi.co.uk now lists more than 80 ‘products’ for sale at various times of the year and his business is going from strength to strength.

So perhaps, with the growing season stretching out in front of us, now would be a good time to follow Andrew’s lead, swat up on your samphires and your ramsons and get yourself down to Mother Nature’s Cash and Carry to see what’s available. In fact, wild garlic is growing rampantly in many places at the moment, so there’s a good place to start. Andrew’s website has a Wild Food Code that’s worth reading to make sure you’re foraging ethically, and also points out a number of books that will help to turn you into a wild food expert.

A bit of wild food in your shop looks interesting and attractive, often smells wonderful, creates a talking point and differentiates you from your competitors. And the mark-up is big enough to make your eyes water.

We’re keen to add more foraging spots to the BigBarn map, so if you find one and don’t mind letting others in on the secret, get in contact with us via the website, www.bigbarn.co.uk.

Happy foraging!

Ed Haigh runs BigBarn, the UK’s no.1 virtual farmer’s market. It has a database of more than 6,500 local producers. To find out about becoming a member, visit BigBarn at www.bigbarn.co.uk, call 01234 8761005 or email info@bigbarn.co.uk.

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