Hawthorn

What a great sight to see the first flush of hawthorn leaves, probably the earliest leaves to show.
Pick the new leaves whilst they are still bright green – they bring a great nutty flavour to a forage salad.

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Sorrels

Wood sorrel and ‘the other’ sorrel (Arorow Sorrel  / Sheep Sorrel / Meadow Sorrel / Field Sorrel – whatever!) both have fantastic lemony flavoured leaves.
Wood sorrel is easy to identify (if you can find it this early and perhaps it is a little too sparse to be picked yet)
The other ‘field’ sorrels are more difficult to identify before their flower stalks appears, they look a bit like small docks.
Wonderful added to those early salads, or try a small bunch torn (better than chopped) into strips stirred into an omelette or used to stuff salmon of trout.

Nettle

I think that gloves are essential for picking nettles, but I know some people would disagree with me, scissors are helpful too. New, fresh leaves are the best, try them in a soup on their own or mixed with wild garlic leaves.

4 handfuls of nettle tops (add some wild garlic leaves if you wish)
1 onion finely chopped
1-2 tblsp olive oil
2 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped into 1” cubes
2 pints chicken or vegetable stock.
Salt, pepper & nutmeg
Double cream or crème fraiche to serve

Saute the onion in the oil until pale.  Add the potatoes for a couple of minutes.  Wash the nettles and ensure there are no chunky stalks
Add the damp nettles and put on lid and leave them to wilt for just a minute or so.
Pour over the stock and bring to the boil.
Simmer for 20 or so minutes, until the potatoes have mushed.
Liquidise and if preferred push through a sieve.
Season to taste and serve with swirl of cream

Wild Garlic / Ramsoms

How can you miss it with that smell??

Why would you want to??

Wild garlic grows almost everywhere damp.  (If you can’t smell them now – just wait till they start to flower!!)

Use in anywhere you would use bulb garlic, a handful of leaves finely chopped will replace a bulb or two.  Add a few to your winter salads, try stuffing a chicken with leaves, or chopping them finely for use in garlic butter.

Spring Equinox Wild Food Walk

What a fab date to choose!

March 21st, just before Mother’s Day and Transition Chesterfield’s first Wild Food Walk.  Steph and I took what felt like a huge group around Holmebrook Valley Park teaching 1st level foraging.

Of course we did a rekky during last week, so were able to show off first glimpses of Wood Sorrel among others.  We managed about 10 edibles and everyone was really interested and enthusiastic.  The highlight was all the kids loved tasting the gorse buds!

Those who could came back to mine afterwards for a mixed spring salad and fab nettle soup (Steph gathered the nettles).  To see what Transition Chesterfield is up to now go to http://www.transitionchesterfield.org.uk/content/events

Dandelion

So very common and so very versatile.  At this time of year, pick a handful of new fresh leaves of brightest green, trim off the stalks and add to a mixed salad (the leaves are unusual to our palate, but persevere, you will find its worth it!)  In France, in the very best restaurants they serve ‘Pissenlit au Lard’.  Lardons (bacon cut up very small to you and me) and croutons are fried until crisp, then  tossed with fresh dandelion leaves along with a dressing made of the bacon fat and a little white wine (or dry cider) vinegar.

(The French name for dandelion gives us a clue that too many leaves have a diuretic effect!)