Every wild food forager developes a ‘map’ of their local area of where the best foraging of certain plants is to be had. I shared my secret sorrel bank with the wild food walk that I led a couple of weeks ago. I have a ‘pet’ sloe/damson sort of thing (perhaps they are even bullaces) and I noticed that the blossom was in full bloom over the fantastic May Bank Holiday weather, so hopefully there will be a great crop in the autumn. Today I came across another ‘dot’ to add to my map.
I live very near to the Derbyshire Peak District and each summer I kinda don’t get around to going proper bilberry picking – either I go too late, or the place where I go is all heather and not bilberries, or its been a bad year and there is only a handful or whatever. Anyway, today I discovered a whole south west facing slope covered in bilberries in flower being polinated by some very tenacious and determined bumble bees – it was blowing a hooley and the rain was stinging my face on the top of the Edge above but still they were out and about doing the biz!
So, in a month or so I will be out there with a couple of lunch boxes to spend a happy hour or so picking bilberries to my hearts content. Roll on Summer!!
The people of my home town were treated to a Wild Food Feast over the weekend as myself and the Wild Food Walker led a wild food walk, followed by a sampling lunch.
20 people took part and their taste buds were treated to many delights – the menu included 2 soups – creamy nettle and tangy garlic (both served with exellent locally made bread); pasta accompanied by nettle pesto and a wild leaf salad; a series of pickles (elder buds and ash keys) and wild jams; wild greengage crumble and hazelnut meringue with blackberry colis; dandelion drop scones with rosehip syrup; fruit leather and a taste of a couple of alcoholic delights – May Blossom brandy and Elderflower port.
A awful lot of work by a team of volunteers was richly rewarded by the contented smiles on people’s faces and their many complementary comments.
A suessful event – we can’t wait to do it again in the Autumn!
I can’t actully believe its nearly 6 weeks since the last optimisticly worded post about spring, but we had some snow, and then a little more and then a lot more and then it snowed again and then…. well I could go on, but you know the score!
Much as I do actually LOVE the snow, snow angels, snowball fights, jumping in snow drifts up to my thighs, making prints in unmarked snow, driving to work through what is already a beautiful landscape made spectacular with every twig on every tree highlighted; I am kinda glad its almost thinking about going.
Not that the weather has really been able to stop the march of spring, but it has slowed it down just a little. Wild garlic cotinues to grow – bravely poking through the snow and in one place thoroughly eaten by rabbits, presumably beacuse its far too cold for grass to do very much!
Celendines not yet a carpet of flowers, but a couple of days of sun and they will be; Garlic Mustard (Jack by the Hedge) coming up good and strong. I am keeping an eye on the local nettles – in a few short weeks at the end of April, we are planning a wild food walk with lunch and I am grave need of nettles for soup, but I have every confidence that Mother Nature will provide (fingers crossed!!)
PS Celedines – those tiny yellow star flowers and the leaves are not edible, however if one could dig them up (which of course on land other than one’s own is illegal) one would find tiny (and I mean tiny) balls of starch attached to the roots. Known as famine food, one can only imagine how hungry someone would have to be to go to the effort of digging up enough to make a meal. Sobering thought in our days of plenty.
I had a text from a forager friend on Friday saying he had found his first wild garlic peeping though. I was amazed, after all its still only very early February and there has been a lorra lorra snow so far (some again yesterday). I congratulated him, thinking how lucky he was, only to find on Saturday all along my stream-side route home from shopping in town, wild garlic sprouting EVERYWHERE, in several places big enough to be worth throwing my bike on the ground (shopping and all) and picking and bringing home and mixing with butter and spreading on bread for delicious garlic bread!! (small handful of leaves chopped fine, knob of butter mixed together and spread)
Anyway in his tet he also mentioned that he had found freshwater mussels – I am hopefully meeting up with him very soon to be introduced to them, so watch this space….
Roger Phillips brilliant book ‘Wild Food’ is arranged in the order that wild foods appear and Hairy Bittercress is the very first food featured.
Last Saturday, my home town was deluged with about 6″ snow, but yesterday was beautiful and sunny and today we took a well needed bike ride around Carsington Water, stopping off at Hopton Hall to take a walk through the Snowdrops and Winter Aconite (www.hoptonhall.co.uk) – they are open until the beginning of March and well worth a visit – if only for the teashop! Anyway, back to wild food, there was loads of Bittercress waiting to be picked and added to a winter salad or a hearty cheese sandwich. As expected, being called ‘bittercress’ it is an aquired taste, but adds a cetain something and exciting to pick so early in the year.
To date, apart from field mushrooms, I have never picked and ate wild mushrooms and I certainly am not confident with my identification skills (yet), but a couple of weeks ago( in the glorious spriong weather we were having before the snow decended!), whilst out collecting nettles and wild garlic for the firts batch of Nettle Soup of the year, I spotted some mushrooms. Thinking that they could only be some early St Georges Day Mushrooms (so named beacuse they are usually spotted around April 23rd) I picked them to bring home and chck the identification with the books, and internet if necessary.
I checked the books, working through the keys, I checked with a friend by sending photos and got my brother who was staying to check the books again – same conclusion all around – Wood Blewitt, growing in the wrong place at the wriong time of year. We cooked it and ate it (a little nervously on my part). It was fine – no ill effects for anyone. Useful learning process – especially as my brother, who had always claimed that ‘looks like a mushroom, smells like a mushroom, must be edible’ read through most of my books that evening and found that several very poisonious ones do look and smell just fine!
I have never made it, but long wanted to, think I may hunt myself out a birch tree and give it a go after this inspirational post from Speckled Wood
When is a weed not a weed? When its edible? When its really pretty?
Well on my allotment I have a weed that is both – Coltsfoot – its a pernicious weed and it gets everywhere, but its leafless flowers are so pretty that it seems such a shame to eridicate it completely.
Roger Phillips in his Wild Food book advocates using the flowers to make wine, but I think you may need a meadow-full to pick the required 5 pints of flowers!
However, wait until the leaves come through and make some Coltsfoot cream, but chopping and sauteing a couple of handfuls of young leaves, then cover with water and cook until soft. Strain off the water and push the leaves through a course sieve, and beat with a tblsp toasted sesame seeds.
If you wonder what it would taste like – cast your mind back to kids sweets from the 70’s – did you ever have Coltsfoot rock – strangely chalky and a bit aniseed-y http://www.aquarterof.co.uk/coltsfoot-rock-p-271.html
As the trees come into blossom, do enjoy it for is own sake and smile as it brightens your day, but also check it out a bit closer and make a mental note of where it is. Because of course where there are flowers there will later be fruit!
Blossom right now is most likely to be blackthorn which will turn into sharp black sloes, which in turn can be made into Sloe Gin – which reminds me… Ahh that’s better, nothing like a glass of deep red nectar to help the concentation and lubricate the typing fingers!
Anyway, within a couple of weeks we should be seeing plum and damson, then apple and pear, followed swiftly by May blossom (from the Hawthorn tree) and the fantastic finalie of Elderflower by which time it will be June and it won’t be long before the first fruits start to appear and the cycle goes on.
OK, so Spring has officially arrived – that’s it – you can stop waiting. To celebrate the extra day, Spring has arrived in February! Prove it, I hear you cry, OK – 3 reasons that I know spring has come…
1. On the way to work I spotted hawthorn bursting into bud and stopped for a nibble
2. On the way home I picked Wild Garlic leaves just poking through (be certain they are not Lily of the Valley – looks simular, smells very different obviously!)
3. Whilst picking said Garlic to be added to chicken, tomato and basil sauce, I collected enough Field (Arrow/Sheep) Sorrel to go in my tomorrow.
What more proof do you need? Here’s to good foraging in 2012, she says raising a delicious glass of 2010 blackbery wine : )