White!

All of a sudden over the course of just a week everything has turned white – trees, hedgrows, fields – there are white flowers and blossom (what a fantastic language English is where there is a seperate word for tree flowers!)  So many of these white blooms are from edible plants – its quite an exciting time of year to be foraging – there is so much to eat out there – I know the spring has been wet and cold and grey, but the growth is so lush it almost makes up for it.

Trees in blossom at the moment are Hawthorn (May Blossom), Mountain Ash (or Rowan) and Elder (just coming) – May Blossom can be dried and made into tea, Elderflowers is famous for cordial and champagne, just mark the location of the Rowan and come back in the autumn for the berries.

Looking a little lower and the next layer down there is Cow Parsley, who’s early leaves are edible (making sure you are certain its not its very poisonous simular relation Hemlock), Sweet Cecily – again very simular, but instantly recognisable by its distinct aniseed smell and the versitle Jack by the Hedge (Garlic Mustard) and lots of White Deadnettle.

In some shady damp areas the brilliant Wild Garlic (Ransoms) are still in flower and their all pervading smell fills the valley.

Down at your feet at the bottoms of the hedgerow there are still more white flowered foods to be picked.  Hairy Bittercress and its cousin Shepherd’s Purse – little peppery plants – very welcome in a spring salad.  Last but not least Cickweed with its beautiful star like flowers is abundant and luchious this spring, enjoying as it does a damp spring.

There really is so much out there, and remember its all free for the picking!

 

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Spring Sorrel

For me, one of the best tastes of Spring is the sharp lemon tang of sorrel.  Wood Sorrel is a delightfully bright green lighting up the woodland floor, delicate white flowers and its clover-like leaves make it very easy to identify, one bite and the distinct taste makes it unmistakable. 

The other sorrel is completely unrelated but shares its name due to the simular taste – growing in open fields and a member of the dock family there are several varieties – Arrow Sorrel, Sheep Sorrel- all can generically be covered by the heading Field Sorrel.  Recently I led a Wild Food Walk for the lovely chef, Adam, at Nuthurst Grange Hotel (www.nuthurst-grange.co.uk) – after tramping the surronding grounds and fields we took a walk around the walled herb graden, where someone asked for the identity of a plant – bending down I immediatley declared it to be Bistort – also an edible member of the dock family but much larger than sorrel.  However I was most surprised when I tasted a leaf to find the distinct citrus of sorrel – it was a huge cultivated version and it was a good lesson that even an experienced forager can make an identification error!