The Edit

Foraging for sustainable food in Berkshire

Coworth Park
Adam Smith, executive chef at Coworth Park, is passionate about foraging and reducing food waste. Here he gives us an insight to where he sources his produce, his favourite natural ingredients and how chefs can play a pivotal role in a more sustainable future.

My career started with a part-time job washing up at weekends to earn a little pocket money. I soon fell in love with the kitchen’s atmosphere and the team camaraderie. From there, my creativity and passion for food grew. I felt inspired to please my diners with great food and hospitality, working collaboratively as a team. At Coworth Park, it’s all about our team. We have a fantastic group of people who all share a passion and desire to continuously improve.

Winter is my favourite season, as there’s such a plethora of ingredients available. Wild mushrooms are abundant, as are root vegetables, which are underrated but a real love of mine. A simple swede, turnip or parsnip can also be really versatile and tasty. I’m not an expert forager, but I enjoy using ingredients from Coworth Park’s backyard. We’re lucky to enjoy produce from our 240-acre estate throughout the year, from wild garlic, elderflower and chickweed in spring to elderberries, bilberries and wildflowers in summer. In cooler months we can sometimes find ceps, crab apples, cob nuts and even damsons.

There are so many benefits of foraging. Wild vegetables might look less appealing but they contain more nutrients than supermarket food, they haven’t been chemically treated and are much tastier and fresher. Foraging also has a low carbon footprint and brings us closer to nature. What I enjoy most about foraging is the understanding and appreciation it gives us; it allows us to learn something and be more creative with ingredients that aren’t available from our traditional suppliers. One of my favourite seasonal dishes is Hen of the Woods – preserved pumpkin, chestnuts and seeds, made with chestnuts from Coworth Park’s estate.

Coworth Park’s kitchen garden is in front of the wildflower meadow adjacent to our rose garden. We grow herbs and flowers such as lemon verbena, lovage, society garlic, marigold, sweet cicely, meadow sweet and camomile. A team of gardeners manage the estate and our kitchen team have the privilege of harvesting what we need for our dishes. We also make use of the wildflower meadow in summer. Introducing bees has given us our own delicious honey and made the kitchen garden and the meadow more productive.

It’s not overly complicated to reduce food waste. Sourcing and working with sustainable farmers and producers is important to create a sustainable working and cooking environment. As consumers, we’ve become obsessed with perfect, ‘clean’ vegetables, but how they’re grown, harvested and delivered is much more important. At Coworth Park, we spend a lot of time building relationships with suppliers and producers. My basic rule is to use every part of the produce we receive. For instance, we use whole brown crabs’ white meat for our caviar tart, the brown meat in canapés and the shells for bisque sauce.

Surrounded by the Berkshire countryside, Coworth Park is the perfect setting to indulge in Adam Smith’s culinary creations.