This is the question that occupies my thoughts whist all around me imagine what the Easter Bunny might bring them!
In an attempt to be vaguely healthy before the choc-fest begins we went swimming this afternoon…when I say ‘went’ I mean we travelled to the swimming pool and found out that it was closing in 25 mins so went for ice cream instead!
The park cafe is run buy a local award winning ice cream company, which, although being family owned in my Derbyshire hometown since 1898 still claims to be Italian and thus it was to the Gelataria that we went, not the ice cream parlour. Anyway, they have lots of flavours and today my attention was drawn to a large tub of bright green Sweet Woodruff flavour.
i know the plant, but was not aware that it was edible, so came home to check it out in my books. The estimable Mrs Grieve (author of THE herbalist bible ‘A Modern Herbal’ printed in 1931 and never bettered) describes it as fragrant , an ingredient of snuff and pot pori, when dried it has the scent of new mown hay and was used as a medieval strewing herb. She also mentions that it can be added to sweet German winery make a traditional drink named ‘Maibowle’ which Richard Maybe in Food for Free gives a recipe for; he also suggests adding a stem to a bottle of Apple juice for an ‘ambrosial’ taste.
Several of my other wild food books mention it in passing, but alas not one of them actually says what it tastes like, so while you are all enjoying the gifts from the Easter Bunny I shall be imagining the taste of Sweet Woodruff and next time I see some bringing it home and wondering why anyone wants ice cream that smells of hay,
The people in the offices upstairs moved out, so we went on a scavenger hunt…we came back with the sort of goodies you can image – a better flip chart stand than our existing one with the wonky leg, a nearly full pack of blue tac, some post-its, an under the desk footrest – that sort of thing. But my best find (my windfall if you will), mixed in among a stack of outdated boring books on marketing and strategy and procurement, was a beautiful hardback copy of ‘The Concise British Flora in Colour’ – known affectionately for more than 50 years by the name of the author – Keble Martin.
A definitive guide to identification of wild plants is essential for a wild food forager – you have to be absolutely sure of what you are picking – photographs are all very well, but a well drawn guide such as this – or ‘The Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe’ (again known by its illustrator – Marjorie Blamey) is so much better – there is no background to confuse, the plant is shown in precise detail and the features of leaves and flowers are very clear.
So now I have two of the best identification guides – its funny what makes a person happy!
And I mean EVERYWHERE! I even spotted it in the Metro (the freebie newspaper available on public transport not the rapid transit system in the North East – although I have no doubt you would be able to view it from the windows on some journeys!) The Metro on Thursday featured a great recipe for Garlic Paste – which sounds like a pretty good pesto – they recommend putting it with pasta, cooking chicken or fish with it, or even mixing it with cheese for toasties! Anyway this is more or less what they suggested doing…
Whiz 2 handfuls of wild garlic leaves with a bag of spinach leaves, 3 tblsp pine nuts, 2oz finely grated Parmesan and gradually add 300ml good olive oil until it forms a kind of pesto-y consistency. I would love to have tried it, but I don’t have a whizzer, however it sounds very similar to the wild garlic and nettle pesto made by a friend of mine last year which was delicious (he used flower buds instead of leaves and nettles instead of spinach and called it Stinger Pesto – it went down very well!)
Wild garlic is a great starter for new foragers – it mostly grows by water, it likes damp and shady, its instantly recognisable by its fantastic smell when the leaves are crushed (or walked on) and from some distance away when the flowers are out. Its very easy to use anywhere you would normally use bulb garlic, chopping half a dozen leaves or so or a good handful of flowers to replace 1 bulb of garlic in any recipe.
The long awaited for sunshine arrived, if briefly, this afternoon (Derbyshire has been shrouded in mist all week). So a short walk out was rewarded with fields of glorious bright shiny yellow dandelions. Instead of cursing these unwanted weeds – eat them!
For fabulous drop scones pick a couple of handfuls of open flower heads, remove all the petals and put on one side. Make some drop scone mix – taking 4oz SR flour, 2oz sugar, an egg and some milk to make a thick batter. Beat in the yellow lovelyness and drop spoonfuls onto a hot greased griddle. Eat immediately and if you have some rosehip syrup to pour over them they taste even better!!
If you don’t fancy dandelion drop scones but still fancy eating weeds try these nettle ones – http://fromagehomage.co.uk/2013/06/10/blue-cheese-and-nettle-drop-scones/