May Blossom Brandy

Woo Hoo!  how much May blossom is there this year?!!

Its everywhere, and so beautiful and fragrant too.  Well here is a way to capture that scent and drink it in when darker evenings arrive that I found in Richard Mabey’s Food for Free

Gather enough May flowers to fill a pint bottle.  If you can take the bottle with you when gathering and cut the blossom straight in using scissors to avoid losing petals and gaining stems (which is what will happen if you pick bunches and carry a bag of home)

Add 2 table spoons of sugar and fill the bottle with brandy.  Using the same method as for slow gin, shake the bottle a couple of times every day until the sugar has all dissolved.  Then stick it somewhere warm and dark until at least the beginning of  Autumn, then strain and decant into a clean bottle and drink carefully!!

Treats from the Coast

Living in the centre of England, you don’t get much chance for coastal gathering, so when the opportunity arises, its a real treat!

Last weekend I went down to the South Coast and spend a lovely day cycling along the seafront and around the pretty coastal villages.

Plenty of wild foods – in partciular:

  • Sea Beat – very spinich-y kind of plant with crunchy shiny dark green leaves – perfect for a snack as you go along or take home and steam gently like you would with Chard or Kale
  • Alexanders – this bright green-yellow Umbellifer is very easy to identify.  Its stems before flowering can be eaten like very good asparagus.  Growing all along the hedgerows within about 20 miles of the coast in my experience
  •  Fennel – bronze and green growing adundantly by the side of the paths along the dune.  We picked loads to go with the veg and some local fish.

Last time my wild food buddy Ian went to the Norfolk coast he returned with buckets of marsh samphire for all his friends – another fantastic salty treat.

    Dandelions

    OMG the world just turned yellow!!

    Suddenly everywhere the dandelions are out.  Usually further towards the end of April, so definately early this year.

    You can pick the flowers and make them into wine, or I saw a really innovative use when watching River Cottage Every Day with Hugh FW, they made jam / marmelade and called it marmelion!  Can’t find a receipe on line, but if you are quick you will e able to catch it on 4OD.  It involved picking 100 dandelion heads and cuttting the petals off.

    Looked wonderful!

     

     

    Rose Bay Willowherb

    My wild food friend Steph reckons they’re inedible, but they are in the books and I think they are quite spinich-y and even palatable raw.  The young tips of Rose Bay Willowherb, can be peeled and cooked like aspasgus and eaten with butter.

    Also called Fireweed, its an immigrant from Canada, it can be found on wasteland everywhere, buut you need to catch it young now, before it starts to form flowers.

    They are creeping around the edge of my allotment and I spotted them this morning, so they are ripe for picking.  Try them and see which side of the fence you come down on!

     

     

    Doing a Recci

    I am leading a Spring Wild Food Walk for Transition Chesterfield.  Always on the look out for an interesting venue, my co-leader suggested a new patch, so we went to check it out.

    Proving that you don’t have to be ‘in the wild’ to eat wild we started off on the site of a demolished house.  Plenty of Nettles, Dandelions, Docks, Bramble and Coltsfoot.

    The idea of the walk is to show people that there are wild foods all around them, you just have to be shown (and be able to identify it correctly afterwards)

    Along the road under the railway bridges – loads of Chickweed in the road edge, loads of Hawthorn hanging over.

    Cross the road and along by the river, plenty of Wild Garlic, Cow Parsley and Garlic Mustard, some Plantain here and there, Hogweed coming through, a patch of Comfrey beginning to show; some Goose Grass or Cleavers – supposedly edible, but never recommended by anyone that I know of!

    There are 3 main plants which I would look to show people during a Spring Wild Food Walk, flavours which are strong, plants that are plentiful, easily recognisable and that are easy to use.  We had already happened upon Wild Garlic – pick handfuls of leaves or flowers, chop and use whenever you would use garlic bulbs.  Garlic Mustard, use in lots of dishes where you are looking for a tang – cheesy dishes or with pork or in salad.

    The 3rd plant is Sorrel, or rather its two plants – let me explain…Wood Sorrel is the tiny clover leafed woodland plant and Common Sorrel (Sheep Sorrel, Arrow Sorrel or Field Sorrel) which is a member of the dock family.  Although completely different species, they both taste the same due to the presence of oxalic acid – the sharp lemon-y flavour so familiar yet unexpected is a must for first timers.  Wood Sorrel is only to be found deep in the woodland, its bright, almost lime green leaves, lighting up the forest floor and matching with its citrus taste.  Common Sorrel (as would be expected) can be found in most grassland if you look hard enough.

    So, on a mission to find the 3rd piece of the picture, we set out a little further afield, and crossed a rather busy road, onto the verge and up a track beyond heading for a scrubby piece of woodland.

    We found a gap in the hedge edged with wild raspberries, and in very rough grassland located several Sheep Sorrel plants – tick the box.  We carried on into the woodland, but despite an extensive search, finding Gorse and Beech Mast, more Brambles and lots more Nettles, we didn’t locate any Wood Sorrel.

    But happy with the route, we agreed to go ahead.  See you on May 8th?

    Salad sarni anyone?

    I checked the fridge whilst I was making my lunch yesterday and like old mother Hubbard’s cupboard it was empty of salad veg to go in my sandwich.  There must be something to mix with my cheese, so I trotted outside.  Its not a huge garden, but it does have a lot of ‘weeds’!

    So, plenty of Dandelions growing out there, quite a lot of them almost ‘blanched’ from living in the semi darkness under the trampoline, so a handful of them in the colander.  Hawthorn leaves just coming trough on the hedge between me and next door, a good dose of them.  Sorrel growing in what should be a lawn, fantastic lemon-y sharp taste – they can go in. Garlic Mustard only a couple of leaves needed, (they are a bit strong).

    Back inside a quick splosh under the tap and a good chop and it makes the perfect filling for my sarni!