Spring Flowers

I was out cycling around Carsington Water last weekend and there were loads of spring flowers.  It must be very sheltered as it is still only March.  Some of our prettiest spring flowers are edible spring, but only in small quantities.  Primroses and violets can be used to make crystalised flowers, beautiful on top of Mother’s Day or Easter cakes.  Pick a few (but only if there are loads) dip them in egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar.

In times gone by when spring flowers were much more plentiful they could be used to make wine, you can still find receipes (in old books and on the internet I’m sure) for Coltsfoot or Cowslip wines.  You would be very hard pushed to find enough cowslips to make wine and even if you did it would be such a shame to pick them for such a purpose, but if you have ground covered in coltsfoot needing to be cleared (as I have seen on some local allotments) let them flower, pick and make wine and then dig them up! (and replant somewhere wild if possible, they realy are the herald of spring and so good to see thier bright yellow)

 

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Celendine

Today is so Spring!!

Its so spring beacuse today I saw my first butterfly of the year, the frogs have spawned in the pond in our garden and I even caught a glimpse of some Wood Anenomies (Windflowers) .

I vistited the embryonic Rhubarb Farm today (http://83.170.122.74/rhubarb_farm/index.php) a new Social Enterprise Community Supported Agriculture project starting near Bolsover.  Beautiful Spring Day, we saw loads of things to eat at the bottom of the hedgerows – enough to make a propoer spring salad – dandelions, garlic mustard, cow parsley, hogweed, dead nettle, sorrel and of course hawthorn itself.

What caught my eye most of all was a whole bank of Celendine.  their beautiful star like flowers shining in the spring sun.  But everytime I see Celendine it really brings home the reality of starving.  You see one of the old names for Celendine is famine food.  Each of the tiny plants, if you dig them up, has teeny tiny nodules on the roots and these, if collected and ground up are pure starch.  How poor would you have to be to have nothing else?   How hungry would you have to be to face such a task to fill your belly?  I think I am very lucky to live in the Western World in 21st century.

 

Birch Sap

Whilst everyone has heard of Maple Syrup and the whole thing is quite familiar, suggest to people in the UK that they drink tree sap and they are REALLY out of their comfort zone!

The sap is rising in all trees at the moment, in fact someone told me that if you hold your ear agianst a tree you will hear the sap rushing up the tree and I have tried this, but am never quite sure whether the noise I’m hearing is just the ‘sea in the seashell’ noise or whether it is actually sap rushing around inside the tree.

Just along the street from my house a row of birch trees oevrhang a neighbour’s fence, one branch had been twisted and broken in the winter gales and this week, the tree was put out of its misery and the offening limb has been cut off.  The sap is literaly dripping out of the cut, making a wet patch on the pavement.  Were it in my garden, I would have installed a bowl  bucket to catch said sap.  Recommended for making beautiful (pre-sweetened) tea, you could try boiling and then reduciing a  pan full of sap down to thin syrup-y stuff to sweeten any dish.  Mixing with lemon peel and cloves along with the normal yeast and sugar (or even honey)  makes great wine, so I’m told.  Birch trees can be ‘tapped’ a hole drilled in the truck (and a cork inserted afterwards to prevent permanent damage) for a reliabel source.

 

Garlic Mustard

I took my car in for a service this week, the garage I use this little back street guy, tucked away in a unit at the back of a scruffy industrial estate.  My point being that in order to gather wild food, you don’t have to be ‘in the wild’.  On the walk back from the garage I spied lots of big clumps of Garlic Mustard (Jack by the Hedge) , all coming up in a bit of grass where no one goes. I pulled some of these fresh, green spicy-hot leaves and popped them into my salad in a box lunch.  They would go just as well in a ham sandwich!

While you are out and about at the mo, take a look around at all the blossom that is about – plum ‘family’ is one of the earliest to come into flower, make a mental note of where you see it and remember to pop back in the autumn and check for damsoms or sloes.

Hawthorn

I heard a fantastic description of the arrival of Spring the other day.  I was listening to a Norse tale at Matlock’s monthly Storytelling Cafe http://www.tradartsteam.co.uk/Matlock-Storytelling-Cafe.html where the quite brillinat Giles Abbott entraced us with a tale from the Vikings.  He spoke of Odin, looking with his one eye through his spy glass at all the 9 worlds (of which this one is the middle) and when he saw the first bud of Hawthorn burst that was the first day of spring.

I love that – I am always excited by seeing the first hawthorn leaves – the greening of a brown and lifeless hedge.  I have seen my first hawthron buds burst, so am happy that spring has arrived.  Once the leaves appear, pick them whilst they are ultra green and new and eat them in a cheese sandwich for a great nutty taste or add them to a mixed leaf salad.

Later the flowers (May blossom) and the haws themselves are both edible.

Garlic!!

The bare ground along the banks of the river on one of my regular cycle routes has suddenly sprouted green!

Everywhere there is Wild Garlic coming through.  You won’t smell it yet, you will have to wait until it flowers for that, but if you want to use it now (and are sure you can identify it and not mix it up with Lily of the Valley) then grab it by the handful!!

I picked some on my way home the other evening and we had fish pie with galic mash for tea.  Garlic Mash its very easy to do, just boil your potatoes as usual, mash with butter and a big handful of roughly chopped wild garlic leaves.  Delicious!