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OUTDOOR LIFE

BACK TO THE ROOTS WITH PIERRE EDOUARD ROBINE - FARMER AND FORAGER

Pierre-Edouard Robine is a 40-year-old farmer and wild plant forager. Here he explains what inspires him in the natural world, why he’s so passionate about botany and how to get started with foraging.
Photo of Celine and her father
Photo credit: Florent Schneider
“After working as a principal private secretary at the Paris city hall for several years, I felt the need to practice a manual activity connected to nature. I came back to live on my farm in native Normandy, where I developed two main activities: the production of natural sparkling pear cider and the gathering of wild plants for Michelin starred restaurants. I am also very inspired by the American North East: Vermont and Finger Lakes, which is where I learned how to make cider (this is the utmost for a Norman as cidery is truly a local specialty).
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Photo on the right credit to Florent Schneider. On the left is yarrows.
From a very young age, I was passionate about ornithology, which then over time developed into a passion for botany. I like being an ‘explorer’, where I can discover my own land as if it were an unknown jungle. I also enjoy slowly getting familiar with the plants and animals that live in my surroundings. 

I don’t really have any favourite plants, but some fascinate me more than others. For example, yarrows can produce flowers in an array of different colours, while water pepper is interesting because it’s as strong as a chilli pepper but can grow in a temperate environment on riverbanks.
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Photo on the left credit to Florent Schneider. On the right is water pepper, photo credit to Pierre Edouard Robine.
I keep active by running regularly and do a lot of hiking when I’m picking plants. For foraging, you need sturdy equipment and clothing that you won't get too hot in. I usually go for a long sleeve t-shirt and a ‘rain jacket’. For shoes, I usually prefer waterproof footwear as your feet can get wet easily: I’ll go for either leather mid hiking boots or Columbia’s ‘Facet hiking shoes’. I also opt for abrasion resistant trousers, as otherwise clothing can get torn easily in the bushes.

In terms of equipment for foraging, I think the best option is to use a sickle, a pruning knife, a cardboard tray and some wet paper to protect the plants. It's important to always carefully close the boxes of what you’ve gathered when you're foraging, as plants tend to easily dry out.
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Photo credit: Florent Schneider
Autumn is my favourite season. You can pick blackberries, but also lots of other berries like rosehips or prunes to make alcohol and chutneys. Of course, you can also pick mushrooms. One of my favourite recipes is raw ceps with a Douglas fir pesto. It’s very easy to make; you just need to grind Douglas fir needles in a mixer with an olive oil and grape seed oil mixture, until you have the desired texture. Just add a pinch of salt and pepper and hey presto!”
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Photo credit: Florent Schneider