Nettles

Well I learnt a thing today – and that is that whilst rubber gloves are perfect for picking nettles, cycling shorts are not!!

I was gathering to make soup for my tea – very yummy and full of health-giving vitamins and stuff – you can positivley feel it doing you good as you eat it!

A different way of using nettles, though I’m not sure they do you quite as much good as having them in a soup, is to mix them into your Pimms (www.anyoneforpimms.com), the receipe does not feature on the official website, but take a nettle about as long as your jug is tall, pop it in, add ice, Pimms, lemonade, fruit of your choice and mint for a perfect (if slightly unusual) summer drink!  Splendid!

Spring Wild Food Walk

Yesterday was the first of this year’s walks for Transition Chesterfield for 2010.  This was the walk that Steph and I were forced to delay by 1 month due to the very late arrival of Spring.  Its well and truly here now and everything was in abundance.  We saw many, many edible plants – here are a few which you could pick for a salad:

Sorrel, Cow Parsley (be sure it isn’t Hemlock), Bramble tips, Hawthorn, Garlic Mustard, Dandelion, Bistort, Wild Garlic, White Dead Nettle, Chickweed, Bittercress.

Enough variety there that you may never buy another iceberg again!

Bisort or Easter Ledge

With leaves looking rather like a cross between dock and sorrel, Bistort becomes more common the further north you get.  In Yorkshire and other more northern counties than here Easter-Ledge puddings were a common dish.  The World Championship Dock Puddings are held in Calderdale (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mytholmroyd) .  Pudding in this case is as in black pudding, rather than a dessert, it is rather like a rissole and is made with a large quantity of leaves, a chopped onion, pearl barley (or sometimes oatmeal), bound with an egg and gently fried with butter (or bacon fat).  With Easter being a little early and spring a tad late, the Bistort leaves are just right for picking right now.

Dandelion Delight

I went to a friend’s for lunch today and in my honour she cooked a special dish she had seen on the TV on Edible Garden ( see http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00s1lc8).  The recipe is not on the website, but she assures me that it was cooked on the programme.  Dandelion heads cooked in batter – just like elderflowers cooked the same way, you make a light batter using flour, eggs a little milk and fizzy water if you have it, dip the flower heads in and fry immediately in hot butter / oil.  Eat straight away.  Like dandelion everythings it takes time to get used to the slightly bitter taste, but they made a really fun addition to lunch!

More sorrel and other delights

I was away again last week – oh what it is to travel!!  This time my son and I were having a Northern Aunt experience.  Visiting an aunt in St Andrews – we walked along the cliff top and I showed her that you could eat gorse flowers – they tatse quite like peas – if you collect enough you can make wine – bit of a faff I think tho’!

Gorse bush in full bloom

Following our visit to the aunt in St Andrews, next stop was an aunt near Carlisle.  Whilst staying with her I went for a walk – mainly hoping to pick up some wild garlic for dinner (good ol’ spag bol), but as is often the case, foraging in unfanilar territory is not as easy as it would appear – I headed for places where I thought it might grow, headed towards a wood, headed down to what looked liek it might be a stream, got a bit lost, quite muddy, and ended up having to climb over a couple of barbed wire fences!!  There was some ‘Jack by the Hedge’ or ‘Garlic Mustard’ which would have done at a pinch, but i must admit I lost it on the way home!  But what I did see in a particularly dense confier woodland was a sea of wood sorrel, the  whole of the forest floor was ‘lit up’ by its lime green leaves.  Had I needed sorrel leaves I could have fed 50 people!!

Sorrel

This week I took a trip over to see relations in Lincolnshire – another little bike and train adventure.  I had a lovely stay and promised by brother a personal wild food walk when he comes over next.

Part of th journey home was 25 miles cycle through the Lincolnshire countryside (on roads) but following one of the brilliantly signed National Cycle Routes (see http://www.sustrans.org.uk/what-we-do/national-cycle-network/long-distance-rides/england/hull-to-fakenham if you need to know where I was).  I saw Lincolnshire scenary as I have never seen it before, beautiful wide skies and great vistas.  I saw hares running in the fields and along the hedgerows loads and lodas of sorrel.  Great to stop and have a drink and then chew a few leaves, really adds some ‘zing’ and makes you ready for the next few miles!