Dewis Gwyllt Project Progress

A snapshot of project achievements in year 1 (2019)

The first year…

The Dewis Gwyllt Project commenced in January 2019 and was launched at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show in July with the first tastings of two new products. Much of this year’s work has focused on researching sustainable harvesting methods and product potential for birch sap and wild garlic. Dewis Gwyllt is working with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to explore standards for sustainable harvesting and with Natural Resources Wales (NRW) on licencing harvesting in the Welsh Government Forest Estate.

Birch syrup

Working with the Llyn Parc Mawr community woodland group on their site in Newborough Forest on Anglesey, and utilising woodland in Mynydd Llandygai, 350 litres of birch sap was collected in March 2019. This was then reduced-down to 3 litres of syrup at the Llangefni Food Technology Centre.

The finished syrup was sealed into 100ml sample bottles, many of which have been given to carefully selected food and drink businesses, for then to try out and taken to various shows and fairs for tasting. The overall response to the syrup is overwhelmingly positive and it looks as if it should be possible to develop sales to food manufacturers, restaurants and retail through fairs and farmers’ markets.

With an interest in raising their profile, trying something different and initiating new income streams, several LlyG member groups have been recruited into a larger scale trial of small-scale commercial birch tapping, planned for the 2020 season… Watch this space for more information!

Wild garlic

Wild garlic or Ramsons is a woodland understorey plant which is a big favourite of foragers and is increasingly seen for sale in artisanal products. Dewis Gwyllt has been investigating the life-cycle of wild garlic to explore if and how this plant could be sustainably harvested for commercial use. Although wild garlic forms clumps and dense carpets of leaves this is made up of a great number of individual plants each of which only has 1 or 2 leaves. Harvesting leaves kills the individual plant and it may take 4-5 years for it to be replaced by a new plant growing from seed.

However, wild garlic is usually very dense with high numbers of young plants ready to fill gaps. Nevertheless, the common advice to foragers “harvest half the leaves from a plant” is somewhat misleading and inappropriate for commercial harvesting. Sustainable harvesting needs to take account of how wild garlic establishes and maintains itself within a woodland. All of the wild garlic plant is edible, and we investigated use of different parts of the plant which would be more compatible with sustainable harvesting than the leaves… Watch this space for further developments in the wild garlic story in 2020!

On the road…

Over the Summer and into the Autumn Dewis Gwyllt went on the road, showcasing project findings and offering taste testing to visitors at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show, National Eisteddfod and the Anglesey Woodland Festival. Bush-craft and foraging expert Huw Jones of Ynys Twca provided expert advice on the vast number of different uses for a range of different natural materials that can be found in Welsh woodlands, which was featured by BBC Radio Cymru.

At the Eisteddfod Dewis Gwyllt ran two competitions aimed at gathering a snapshot of foraging in Wales. This saw two lucky winners receive a bush-craft experience day with Ynys Twca and a food and wine hamper. Well done Deri Burns and Catrin Roberts!

Deri’s Winning Entry 

Find out what’s next for Dewis Gwyllt here


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