I’m a forager on a ‘caveman diet’ who makes syrup from tree sap and shoots squirrels with an air rifle and eats them RAW (including the heart… ‘while it’s still warm’)
- Richard Mawby, 33, started eating wild plants after having a ‘stressful year’
- He shed three stone in just three months by sticking to the radical diet
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A forager who heard a ‘silent voice’ encouraging him to eat nettles while he was walking through a field now follows a caveman-inspired food diet, where he picks plants and hunts wild animals with an air rifle near his East Midlands home, including rabbits, pigeons and squirrels, which he then sometimes eats raw.
Richard Mawby, 33, from Gayton, Northamptonshire, started using wild plants such as nettles, dandelions, wild garlic and sticky willy in bone broths and morning raw milk smoothies in 2012, after having a ‘stressful year’. He shed three stone in just three months, going from 15.7st (99kg) to 12.5st (79kg).
In his early twenties, he quickly became obsessed with foraging his own ingredients to the point where, in 2015, he purchased a few goats and decided to live exclusively on two to three litres of raw milk per day for the entire winter ‘just to see’ if he could survive on it.
After this he started an exclusively foraged diet for a time, inspired by hunter-gatherers, which included the ‘extreme’ decision to eat some parts of the squirrels and rabbits he hunted raw – including consuming the heart ‘while it was still warm’.
Today Richard still ensures no part of the animals he kills is wasted and uses his wild diet method to make a wide range of creative dishes, from nettle tempura to pigeon sashimi.
Richard Mawby, 33, changed his diet after having a ‘stressful year’. He shed three stone in three months after becoming obsessed with foraging
Richard forages wild plants such as nettles, dandelions, wild garlic and sticky willy, also known as cleavers or goosegrass
About 70 per cent of the food he eats is foraged, which means he spends less than £50 ($63) a week in shops on a few extras like rice and 100 per cent cacao dark chocolate, and saves between £30 ($38) and £40 ($51) a week on greens.
He said eating wild foods helps people reconnect with their ancestral roots, and encourages them to become more passionate about saving the world’s natural habitats.
Richard told PA Real Life: ‘I was just walking around the field one day looking at all these plants and thinking, “There’s absolutely no way we can’t eat all of these.”
‘I was just staring at a nettle one day and this silent voice, not in some kind of loopy way, said, “You can eat me.”
‘There’s this psychological barrier in the modern world where we look at wild plants and think, “This is poisonous, we can’t eat it or touch it.”
Richard says he rebalanced his whole body by ‘eating naturally’. He regularly hunts for rabbits and squirrels with his air rifle (left), which he then sometimes eats raw
‘Once I got over the psychological barrier it was just a roller coaster, and I just started going crazy, adding all these things to my diet on a daily basis.
‘The rest is history.’
Richard decided to change his diet after two cavities appeared in his back molars in 2012, when he was 21.
‘I had a very stressful year and didn’t eat very well, lots of processed stuff from the supermarket, and put on weight,’ he said.
He came across the paleo or caveman diet which, as the name suggests, is designed to mirror foods eaten by humans during prehistoric times.
Over the next three months, Richard said he lost three stone and the diet ‘halted’ his cavities.
‘I basically rebalanced my whole body just by eating naturally,’ he said.
Richard decided to take his wild diet to the next level – and bought four goats
Drinking ‘two or three litres’ a day, Richard lived exclusively on goat’s milk for an entire winter
‘I kind of had a midlife crisis in my 20s. That’s how it started for me.
‘It wasn’t by looking at a book, it was more of a deep sensory experience for me.
‘I started being more inquisitive and reconnecting with our ancestral roots.’
Nettles were one of the first plants that Richard foraged.
‘Nettles were my gateway plant,’ he said.
Nettle tempura, above, is just one of the creative dishes Richard has made with wild plants
Earlier this year Richard took part in The Wildbiome Project, where 26 people ate only wild food for several months to see how it affected their bodies
‘It was the first thing that I was able to pluck up the courage to pick and put in my food and then I didn’t die, so I went and carried on eating it.’
He also began harvesting dandelions, wild garlic and sticky willy – also known as cleavers or goosegrass.
He said: ‘I was just grabbing all the wild edible things and shoving them into my bone broths and raw milk morning smoothies – I put nettles in there, dandelions, a bit of honey.’
In 2015 Richard decided to take his wild diet to the next level and bought four goats, deciding to live exclusively on their milk for the winter.
‘I went through one winter with just raw goat’s milk,’ he said.
‘I was drinking two or three litres a day, over winter, just to see if I could survive on it.’
Come spring in 2016, Richard went back to foraging almost 100 per cent of his diet – even eating some of the animals he hunted, raw.
‘I was foraging all the greens and hunting for rabbits and squirrels,’ he said.
While participating in The Wildbiome Project, Richard made 1.3 litres of syrup by harvesting sap from Birch trees
‘It really felt like I was completely in tune with our ancestors.
‘And people will probably think this is a bit extreme, but even the things that I hunted, I would sometimes eat raw.
‘I harvested everything, the blood, and ate the heart straightaway while it was still warm.
‘Our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten the organs straightaway for their nutrition, so I was just following that.’
He also used old preservation methods to keep his meat from going off.
‘I would pickle it first with vinegar overnight, just to be safe,’ Richard said.
‘Then I poured that out and added a lactose fermentation mixture with bay leaves, some garlic, salt and a tiny bit of honey and let that ferment for a while – it was some (of) the most delicious tasting meat I have ever had.’
Richard decided to sell his goats in 2018, as managing his wild lifestyle on his own was becoming too time-consuming.
Earlier this year Richard took part in The Wildbiome Project, where 26 people lived for several months only eating wild foods to see how it affected their bodies.
One of Richard’s wild culinary creations – raw pigeon sashimi
‘I did three months,’ he said.
‘I was curious to see how my health changed, although I wasn’t unhealthy or anything to begin with.
‘At the end when we got our blood tests back, everything was in the green.
‘During the project, I actually tapped some birch trees for their sap and made 1.3 litres of birch syrup.
‘That was one of my most precious commodities. I used it as one of my only sugar sources.’
Richard has continued following the wild food diet since the project ended on June 21, except for a few items, as he said without the help of a community it is difficult to maintain diversity.
‘I have introduced some normal things like rice and a small amount of dark chocolate – 100 per cent cacao, no sugar, into my diet,’ he said.
But he continues foraging for about 70 per cent of his food.
‘I have got an air rifle and access to a shooting ground so I can still get my rabbits and squirrels,’ he said.
Richard is concerned the Earth’s natural habitats are being destroyed by human intervention and said he believes wild foods are a great way to reconnect people with nature.
‘I think if more of us were in tune with wild food, people would be more passionate about trying to save these landscapes,’ he said.
‘It’s kind of what people need to see and feel in order to fight and save our natural habitats before they are completely gone.
‘I just feel that foraging and wild foods is an amazing gateway into just reconnecting us to those kind of roots.’
Follow Richard’s wild food diet on social media at www.instagram.com/foragefrolics/ and visit his website at www.richardmawby.com.
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