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!!
This afternoon, it was one of the pleasures of my job to drive across the white peak – the most beautiful part (I think) of the Peak District – particularly at this time of year with everything so bright green and lots and lots of lambs in fields outlined by the limestone walls.
Sweet Cicely, in my experince, is quite fussy where it grows – many of the wild food books that I have consulted says it grows ‘in the north’, but I have noticed that it grows really well in limestone areas the Yorkshire Dales and the White Peak particularly. So, as I was driving across beautiful Derbyshire and along the roadsides were clouds of Sweet Cicely.
If you know your (edible) Cow Parsley from your (very poisionous and quite simular) Hemlock (quite important, as you might realise!) then you might have a chance at recognising Sweet Cicely. The leaves are a slightly different green and the flowers are creamy and frothy rather than white and lacy and its smells and tastes) amazingly aniseed-y.
Well today, in my business suit and my court siletto shoes I parked up on the roadside and hopped out and filled my lunchbox with Sweet Cicely leaves. For dinner this evening I had palnned to cook north african flavoured lamb meatballs – so added about 4 leaves chopped well to the cinnamon, cumin, corridaner, saffron and tumeric that I was already using. The meatballs tasted great!
Well spring has definately sprung then – in the past fortnight we have gone from no-leaves-on-trees in mid April to glorious-walk-in-bluebell-woods over the Bank Holiday weekend!
Thanks to all the late April showers all the growth is very verdant and non more so at the moment than Jack by the Hedge or Hedge Garlic or Garlic Mustard. A few tiny leaves have turned into hedgerows full of bright green luschious-ness in a very short space of time – it will be in flower in no time.
Picking the bright green leaves while they still look uber-fresh (like they grew yesterday- cos they probably did!) is the best wayto sample it. The taste is very garlic with a little heat after – great for popping into a picnic sandwich, or bring home for addition to a salad. I also like to wrap / stuff chicken or pork with it for a zing.
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.
Well it was really sad, but my fresh water mussel adventure didn’t happen, I had the morning all planned, but car trouble occured, so the walk took place without me. About 30 mussels were sighted in waters close to my home town which have been very badly polluted over the past 50+ years, so this is very encouraging.
There is lots out there for foraging, lots of spring things that I have already mentioned in previous blog entries – bittercress, chickweed, in sheltered spots dandelions leaves are starting to show and nettles too are occasionally seen, tho its a bit early yet for there be enough to gather.
The trees are all budding which means the sap is rising, so its the perfect time to ‘tap’ a Birch or Sycamore for its sap and me some wine. Birch sap is faster flowing and therefore easier to collect, but Sycamore is sweeter (closer to its relative maple of maple syrup fame). For instructions see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmii3_wFEPk.
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….