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Foraging Chat with Slow living advocate, Elsa Evelyn

August 16, 2023

Elsa Evelyn is a video creator who shares content across Instagram and TikTok themed around her passion of living a slower life, more connected with nature. Elsa’s beautiful, simple videos focus on wholesome activities such as wild swimming, foraging and walking barefoot, encouraging her viewers to spend more time outdoors. She also holds regular creative workshops and women’s circles under the moniker Gather & Rewild.

I caught up with Elsa to talk about how she connects with nature, what she is currently foraging for, and her advice for swimming in cold water.

Your connection with nature is inspirational. What are your favourite ways to connect with and get close to nature?

I love to lie down in wildflower meadows, watching the bugs crawling between blades of grass and the bees pollinating the flowers. Afterwards I’ll walk along the river, climbing trees as I go, and collecting herbs I find to put in little cotton bags. When it’s raining I love to dance under a canopy of trees and feel the cool water run down my face. I like to experience the elements in their intensity, their power and beauty.

How would you recommend getting into foraging for the first time?

Go for walks! The best way to learn about plants, herbs, trees, flowers and fruits is to witness their flourishing through the seasons. I walk the same routes all year long, watching the plants sprout, blossom and grow. I’ll stop and look at different plants, smell them, feel them and become familiar with them. Foraging is an innate practice and knowledge our ancestors have been gathering for centuries before us. Once you start, you begin to notice patterns and similarities. As the years go by, it becomes easier to identify what is likely to be edible based on its shape, colour, texture. Your foragers eye starts to get bigger!

I’ve also noticed how the plants show up for you when you need them, so taking the time to tune in and notice what you’re drawn to and looking into their medicinal benefits to see if they can offer you support. Foraging makes me feel wise in a way I’ve never felt before. It’s a power we all have inside of us, we just need to dig a little to find it.

What are you currently foraging for, and what are you looking forward to picking in the upcoming months?

Late summer is my favourite time to forage because everything is so nutritious and delicious this time of year. I’m waiting patiently for the elderberries to ripen, apples to grow big and red, the blackberries to be bursting with juice and walnuts to harden. My basket these days is full to the brim of delights and it’s only getting better as we move to harvest season. I’m especially looking forward to harvesting my annual basket of elderberries. I feel so connected to the elder tree – it’s a tree that follows community and grows wherever we are. Every year I make bottles of syrup and take it medicinally every morning to keep away winter colds and viruses.

There is also the most amazing apple tree that grows at the top of my favourite hill. I’m so excited to walk up there one late September evening and collect a bounty of delights! This year I’d like to make apple chutney for gifts over the winter time so I’ve been saving up jars just for that!

What are your favourite things to make from foraged ingredients?

I mostly dry herbs and flowers for tea. Drinking local herbs makes me feel so deeply connected to the land around me. Once I have washed them, I usually hang them upside down to dry or lay them on a baking tray until they can be stored.

During the spring I’ll pick herbs and greens to use in salads, soups and pesto. My favourites this year were wild garlic, dandelion leaf and wild chives.

During the summer I’m collecting flowers to dry or to infuse in oils to make medicines and herbal remedies. Elderflower, meadowsweet and pineapple weed grow in abundance near my home so I have plenty now to last through the winter to make sleepy tea.

In late summer I’m harvesting sloes to infuse into gin, or plums to make jam and plenty of sweet crumbles.

Autumn and early winter is mushroom season. I love smelling my way through the local woodland to find mushrooms. I usually cook those fresh, or dry them to make stock for soups and stews. Mushroom foraging is particularly exciting as there are so many beautiful varieties. It feels like a treasure hunt and I absolutely love it.

You’re a keen wild swimmer, all through the year. What is your advice for bathing in cold water during the colder months?

Swimming in the winter is so special. It’s quieter, stiller, and the water hits you so powerfully. Since it’s so cold, it’s hard to stay in for longer than a few minutes, so swims become more like dips. It’s important to focus on slowing your breath down before, during and after your dips.

I often pop my fingers and toes in first, and splash my face to help to acclimate myself slowly. I wear a woolly hat in the winter too as it tricks my body into thinking it’s warmer for a little longer.

Try to find a nice spot that’s easy to get in and out – if only so your mind is at ease – and always bring a friend to watch out for you, and to be ready with a towel and a warm hug for when you resurface! When you get out it’s important to warm the body up slowly, layer up and have a hot drink at the ready. I like to go for a little walk for some gentle movement to keep me toasty.

What benefits do you get from wild swimming?

Wild swimming makes me feel so deeply connected to the water element, to Gaia and to myself. There’s something about being in a body of water, one that flows and moves constantly. I feel so ecstatic, peaceful and beautiful when I’m in cold water. It really takes me out of my mind and into my body. It’s also been such a healing process in learning to love my body, so to the river I’ll always be grateful!

Elsa is wearing our Leslie brushed wool sweater in spiced red.

Follow Elsa on Instagram and TikTik

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