Based in Wirral, Danny Moore has taken his lifelong love of foraging and set up a business offering a range of pesto, cordials, liqueurs, gin and vinaigrettes made with wild ingredients. Tony McDonough reports
Entrepreneurs can often trace the roots of their enterprise back to an early age and in Danny Moore’s case it goes back all the way to the age of 10.
Wirral-based Danny grew up in Essex and, as a young boy, he would often accompany his dad and his brother on foraging expeditions into the county’s hedgerows in search of the magical sloe berry (prunus spinosa).
That early introduction to the art of foraging for this unassuming little fruit was to shape his adult life in ways the child could not have imagined. But it wasn’t until he was in his 30s that this early education would present itself as a business idea.
Now he runs a growing business called Forager’s Fancy which came about after he identified a growing demand for organic, sustainable produce. Now, using wild ingredients, he produces pesto, cordials, liqueurs, gin and vinaigrettes. Currently working from home, he is now looking to identify a location for a small production facility.
Recalling his early foraging days in Essex, Danny said: “To begin with, I didn’t really understand the attraction of the sloe berry. Although they are members of the plum family, they are sour even when ripe. They also have a large stone for such a small fruit and are very prickly. Slim pickings, or so I thought.
“I have very fond memories of my dad’s sloe gin and the bar where it used to sit. There was no science involved in our method just a heap of sloes, some sugar and then the gin. My dad would then shake vigorously and wait until the sugar dissolved. I’m not sure exactly how long but we were always ready for Christmas.
“We were allowed a little sample and to this day I have always loved the taste even though I am not a big fan of gin. My dad had another little trick and would top up the same bottle with more Gin and sugar. It seemed to last forever and I will always thank my dad for planting that foraging seed in my head.”
When Danny was in his 30s he was living in a small cottage in an Essex village surrounded by countryside and hedgerows. Around about that time he began training as a tree surgeon which fuelled his interest in plant biology. He became a volunteer ranger at Warley Place, an Essex Wildlife Trust reserve.
He added: “This all helped to deepen my understanding of the natural world and its bounty. I had made my share of hedgerow jam and preserve and started to make homemade elderflower cordial. Sugar is a common thread – I have to confess to a sweet tooth.
“I began to look at different recipes and experiment with different flavours. I also discovered wild garlic (alium ursinum) sometimes called ramsons. We were lucky enough to have them growing freely all around us and they were soon used in soups and salads alike.”
Danny spent two years working in Vienna where he discovered many orchards on the outskirts of the city, adding: “There were fabulous Damson trees. To this day, truly the finest I have tasted.”
Around 20 years ago he moved back to east London and was lucky enough to be close to woodland, marshes and waterways. He said: “It was during this time that I met ‘John the Poacher’ who offered a wealth of information when it came to urban foraging.
“As he would explain to me London has its own microclimate and can accommodate tree and plant species that struggle just outside in the countryside. This was a real education for me any I would learn something new every time we went out.
“I will never forget the day John encouraged me to try raw horseradish root. I had a mild cold sore at the time and much to John’s amusement the root set my lips on fire. Not a complete disaster however as two days later the cold sore had disappeared.”
The pair would go out foraging for sweet almonds, wild garlic, pineapple weed, medlars, field mushrooms, cherries and wild plums. He said the Nashi pears were a real find. They are huge fruits that can weigh up to a kilo.
Danny produced a wild garlic pesto, what he describes as a “sumptuous combination of wild garlic, walnuts, parmesan and olive oil”. That first production run was a sell-out, as was the subsequent vegan version. And Forager’s Fancy was born.
The pesto is just one of a diverse range of products that he makes by hand. Others include pineapple weed cordial (which apparently tastes like cream soda), elderflower gin/liqueur and cordial, fig leaf liqueur, wild garlic oil, rosemary vinaigrette and of course sloe gin and now also sloe brandy.
“I have taken inspiration from various sources and to this day my old mate John and I mull over different recipe ideas,” said Danny. “They don’t always work as planned but if you don’t try you will never know.
It is truly a pleasure to offer random samples of my produce to visitors and punters alike. “The beauty of many of the foraged ingredients is that you can use different parts of the plant for different recipes and sometimes use the same ingredient twice. For example, I use the wild garlic leaf for pesto and oil and then the flower in my vinaigrette.
“One of my favourites is the Boozy fruit and nut which is made using the sloes that have been infusing in the brandy for a year. I then blend this with quality dark chocolate and walnuts for a festive treat.”
Danny also offers to send out freshly foraged ingredients with recipe ideas. He added: “No two years are the same, but I think its true to say that you can truly forage all year round and make the most of your local environment.
“If nothing else I think it teaches us to respect our natural habitat and in the case of urban foraging really opens our eyes to a whole different world.”
To contact Danny at Forager’s Fancy, email email@example.com