Meet the woman who is foraging her entire Christmas dinner for free having spent the last year gathering mushrooms, chestnuts, and acorns.
Zoe Young, 29, from Macclesfield, Cheshire has an interest in social history and previously tasked herself with eating a rationed diet for a week – like families did following World War II.
While living on rations she found herself going into nature to find food, which inspired her next challenge – making an entire Christmas dinner from foraged food.
The support worker has spent the year hunting for mushrooms – such as oyster and chicken of the woods mushrooms – and chestnuts to use in a vegetarian Wellington.
She also plans on making Yorkshire puddings with acorn flour and eggs from a neighbour who has chickens.
To accompany her dinner Young has also turned to urban foraging, which involves identifying and collecting foods growing freely around your city, and has found unopened jars of jam and sauces on the streets.
She plans to make and enjoy the meal with partner, Matt, 31, this Christmas.
Young says she came up with the idea for foraging her Christmas dinner while undergoing the ration challenge.
"I found out how much I liked it," she explains. "I found myself going outside looking for stuff and thought I could try foraging for Christmas dinner.
"It’s completely surprised me how much you can find, everything is seasonal so you find things as you go along."
Young took part in a ration challenge in December 2022, only buying food 1950s Brits ate after the war.
It forced her to think outside the box when it came to meals and saw her picking wild nettles and hawthorn berries for soups, teas and jams.
After embracing that challenge she decided to take things one step further and make a completely foraged Christmas dinner for herself and her partner.
"I had to work out what I could make," she explains.
"I couldn’t have a Christmas dinner without a Yorkshire pudding – how do I make a foraged one?”
Young collected acorns to grind down into flour and did a food swap with a local who had chickens, swapping eggs for some homemade wine and jam.
Young has spent the year gathering mushrooms and chestnuts to make a puree for a wellington.
"I’m a mushroom expert now," she adds.
Young got her potatoes and vegetables from a friend, as her own crops didn't take.
She has also made a jam from hawthorn berries to go with the meal and has found wild horseradish for an alternative sauce.
"The berries make the jam taste like a cranberry jam," she explains.
The couple will be seasoning their food with wild garlic and herbs, making cocktails from rose hips, and have made wine out of apples.
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Young has found extra unopened sugar, salt, pepper, milk and sauce sachets from local streets to include in her recipes.
Overall she has been amazed by how much she has been able to find and has it all stocked up in her freezer ready to make.
"Chicken of the woods mushrooms taste just like chicken," she explains.
While her own Wellington is vegetarian, Young has sourced some game meat for his Wellington.
"It’s been great fun," Matt says of the foraging experiment. "An adventure.
"I’m looking forward to when we can eat it."
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Young's foraged Christmas dinner
Mushroom and chestnut wellington - foraged mushrooms and chestnuts for the filling. Acorn flour and eggs from a friend for the pastry.
Potatoes and seasonal vegetables - grown in a friend's garden
Yorkshire pudding - acorn flour and eggs from a friend
Game for Matt's wellington - sourced from a friend
Apple wine - made from foraged apples
Hawthorn berry jam - made from foraged berries
Additional reporting SWNS.