This year at Toby’s Garden Festival we have a fascinating array of craftsmen and women sharing their skills. Father and daughter duo, Robbie Ryder and Vix Hill-Ryder are an interesting pair.
Vix spent her childhood in the hedgerows, fields and on the coast of south-east Cornwall with her grandfather who was an amateur botanist and first introduced her to wild edible plants. She has now created the Family Foraging Kitchen, a community interest company, which during lockdown helped supply families with good food.
“Although I left Cornwall at 18, studied, graduated, travelled the world, and forged a career in fundraising,” says Vix, “I retained my love and passion for the natural world, foraged food, and cooking with wild ingredients. Even in London, at weekends I’d be in the parks and commons – basket in hand – enjoying the edible delights that urban wild spaces have to offer.
Moving back to Cornwall, my relationship with wild food changed from being ‘just a hobby’ into a necessity due to a change in our circumstances. Every day I was out gathering ingredients for my dinner. I would be stopped and asked what I was picking and how I would use what I gathered. Over time it became apparent that the knowledge I had was of value to the community and that I had a skill from which I could potentially make a living. Cornwall has a rich natural larder with a fantastic and bountiful array of wild food, yet I find people lack, not only the skills and confidence to forage, but also the appreciation that vegetables do not have to be covered in plastic and labeled to be safe enough to eat.
I teach people from all walks of life how to safely identify wild edibles and poisonous species so they have the skills to feed their families in a nutritious, sustainable way – for free, forever. I continue to work with a number of award-winning chefs to create gourmet wild food pop-up events and have provided wild food cookery demonstrations at festivals around the UK.”
Vix’s father Robbie makes skeps, the old-fashioned straw beehives much loved by artists and children’s story books, while Vix forages for wild food along the shores and hedgerows where they live just over the Tamar River in Cornwall.
Since launching The Family Foraging Kitchen, its reputation has grown and attracted an amazing team of people so that they now offer not only walks and activities connected to wild food, but also workshops in traditional countryside crafts from willow basketry to beekeeping and skep making.
Find Vix and Robbie in the Heritage Crafts section on the lower lawn close to the Castle.
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