Britain’s biggest “wild” food supplier could be banned from gathering sea kale along the Kent and East Sussex coast, amid a growing backlash against foraging. The case pits Natural England against Forager Ltd, a supplier of wild ingredients including Japanese rose petals and Sea Buckthorn juice to high-end restaurants.
The firm counts London celebrity favourite The Ivy among its clients. The dispute revolves around sea kale, a vegetable so popular in Victorian times it was harvested to near-extinction and was banned in the early 20th century. The plant, which grows naturally on the edge of shingle beaches, has recently regained popularity after being championed by celebrity chefs such as Raymond Blanc, Tom Kitchin and Darina Allen. Its shoots are cooked as vegetables, with the leaves used in salads.
Natural England contends that the Canterbury-based firm is collecting sea kale on a large scale, destroying valuable plant habitat on the protected Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay stretch of coast in the process.
The allegation is strongly contested by Miles Irving, the founder of Forager, who accuses foraging critics of being misguided.
“Conservationists are in danger of treating the natural world like a museum exhibit we can see but not touch, it is engagement with the natural world which will enable us to secure its future, not isolation from it.”
Cross-post from the Independent.by