I have just watched one of your ‘survival’ programmes (obviously one of the endless repeats on a free-view channel) based in the Turkish mountains and all in all I think that you give wild food a bad name.
You were in beautiful countryside one minute – you were building a raft from whippy young trees and climbing down a waterfall – to me that would be the ideal location for food in abundance – the next you were in a desert eating a couple of slugs which you had boiled in a teaspoon a water (and then you drank that) you then proceeded to dig unsuccessfully for water and eat a live scorpion. You then seemed to be surprised that you were suffering from diarrhoea. The only plants you were interested in were ones with soft leaves!
Had you stayed by the river and foraged I am sure you would have found wild foods in abundance, many waterside and woodland plants are both edible and tasty – even you were struggling with swallowing your slug. Later I admit you plucked a nettle, but only to show us how ‘hard’ you are by pulling off all the leaves to make cordage – you could have been making nutritious and tasty soup with those leaves!
Why do you do this to yourself? It does nothing to promote the benefits of wild food foraging, only just how difficult and dangerous it can be.
Sunday was a great walking day – bright sunshine interspersed with face stinging hail! I walked a long walk (to Beeley Moor above Chatsworth) and was amazed by the variety of wild food to be foraged so early in the year. Looking back over past year’s blogs its sometimes not until the end of March that there is anything to be foraged at all. A full list here would be a bit boring – but these are some of the highlights
- a very large patch of Bistort – cooked like spinach – Bistort is like a smaller dock
- some tansy
- first signs of wood sorrel
I was also very aware that whilst the trees are still bare its a useful time to be thinking about your ‘wild food map’ for later in the year – wild raspberry canes are clear in the undergrowth, damson and sloe bushes are coming into flower, as are some wild (or alpine) strawberries in sheltered areas, I also came across two patches of gooseberries coming into leaf (probably garden escapes, but still wild food if they fruit). Definitely one or two places to revisit later in the year.
I was lucky enough to be able to take a day out of my working week to visit Calke Abbey in Derbyshire with my sister and niece for a girlie day out – National Trust cafe and walled garden. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but we had a lovely time 🙂 despite the wind and we back in the car just as the rain started to fall.
A walk through the grounds gave me my first taste of several early ‘ambulating snacks’ – sorrel – so shape and bright, hogweed shoots – peeled of their hairy coat have a peppery-celery taste and… I just had to show off – pinching out the top of a nettle, rubbing it hard between finger and thumb and eating it raw – cool trick – no sting and lots of early spring goodness.
Shipley Park yesterday afternoon was perfect for a bike ride to blow away the cobwebs along with the last of my cold. Plenty of ingredients for a spring salad – starting of with chickweed, sweet and plentiful, a handful of early hawthorn leaves, some cow parsley (be sure of your identification at this early stage), a handful of dandelion leaves – the newer and less toothed the less bitter, some hairy bittercress adds a pop of flavour, as does wild garlic and garlic mustard (jack by the hedge) add to this some chopped early hogweed stem, a few gorse flowers – adding a splash of bright colour (do they taste of peas or coconut?).
Most walks urban or countryside will provide a variety like this, enough to make an interesting mixed leaf salad with far more taste and vitamins than anything you can pick up in the supermarket.
Well, we are at the beginning of March – as I recall pretty near the start of the year, winter is just coming to a close…the media is running with headlines that we are having the warmest day of the year so far…that would be a headline if it was November or even September, but March?? Surely it’s not really news that it is warmer than January or February??
Anyway – rant over – this unseasonably warm weather has resulted in some brilliant very early foraging, before even the snowdrops have finished. The hawthorn leaves have already started to sprout – grab a handful and pop in a cheese sandwich adding a great nutty taste; wild garlic leaves are popping up in all sorts of places – around streams and ponds – it prefers damp growing conditions – use a handful wherever you would use bulb garlic; garlic mustard in the bottoms of hedges – pick it only in those areas not in the DPZ (dog pee zone); dandelions and nettles are both also coming up – nettle soup will very soon be on the menu for my lunch.