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!!
I enjoyed a couple of days walking in the Lake District earlier this week. One of the great things about spending a whole day walking (besides the most fantastic views) is the chance for some serious foraging!
Over the course of couple of days I picked and ate the following – blackberries with meadowsweet; a salad of watercress, fat hen, wood sorrel, chickweed and bistort; sweet ciciely (which I added to roast veg as you would add fennel); some sorrel sauce to go with fiscakes; and best of all my first (and last cos its now September) bilberries of 2011!
The bilberries took some finding, but it is late in the year. I finally found some bushes with berries near the top of Carron Crag, I was so pleased I almost missed the view! I picked for about 20 mins, and as usual with bilberries ended up with about 2 tablesppons full!! I heated them for just a very few minutes with a splash of orange juice and a pinch of sugar and then poured them over a dish of ice cream. Yummy!
I don’t have any A levels or a degree, I’m not a botanist or a herbalist or an anything really! I just gather and eat wild food and tell people about it.
I met an archeologist who studies plant remains in digs – seeds etc that can be found by a process using water ( seeds float and soil / dirt / gravel does not). Now although this lady can identify plants by microscopically examining tiny seeds – very often plants which would have been eaten. We talked about food, and she asked me to lead a wild food walk, as she does not know what the actual plants look like in the ‘real’. I can’t wait – to learn from her what our ancestors would have eaten and how they would have processed food and to show her just how many wild plants can be eaten. I’m pretty sure even people in relatively recent history would have used their natural larder much more than we do toda.
I was lucky enough to get a couple of days in the North Yorkshire Moors – the top left hand corner where it is nearly the Lake District, and unlike home in Derbyshire where it has been very dry and all the grass is parched and brown, the fields were lush and green like spring – it didn’t quite rain on us, but it was a ‘bit damp’!
As I tramped about in the hills I was amazed at the amount of chickweed, all fresh and green and just like spring, we were cooking on an open fire (beautiful simple camp site) so I could easily have gathered and cooked it very gently for just a few minutes (better if I had been able to add some chopped spirng onions or chives) with a little butter (no water) and just a squirt of lemon (or some sorrel if you find some of that as well)
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to camp out on Friay night in the Derbyshire Dales and he following morning I took myself off for a walk up the nearest ‘Edge’ and had a mind to pick bilberries for breakfast and hopefully bring some home for putting in a pie!
I have to say I wasn’t disappointed by the walk – it was beautiful, the braken smelt wonderful, the views clear and far – I even found lots of tiny upland sorrel which tasted fantastically fresh, but sadly I was very disappointed by the bilberries – I found only 1 tiny patch which had been pretty much picked clear and I picked only 8 berries : (.
Thus is proved the point of making some sort of ‘food map’ there are plenty of other bits of the Dales where I know or sure there are plenty of bilberry bushes and so as this is the right time, maybe I should head out that way again!
My good friend and fellow forager Ian was running a Wild Food Walk for Rhubarb Farm (http://18.104.22.168/rhubarb_farm/) and we went for a recci visit.
Now I tend to think of mid summer as being pretty lean for wild food – the spring leaves are no longer fresh and the autumn berries aren’t ready yet. On a small bit of scrubby ground and some hedgerow we were very easily able to spot 20 or so edible plants. Hazel nuts waiting ripen, first blackberries, some raspberries, elderberries (not ripe yet), some rowan. We also spotted loads of leaves to point out – dandelion, nettle, rosebay willowherb, yarrow, coltsfoot, red and white deadnettle, comfry and many more.
What there was most of were many different plants from the Goosefoot family – Fat Hen, Good King Henry,Orache, Red Goosefoot – I would agree with Roger Phillips who says ‘the plants and leaves are very variable and it may prove difficult to differentiate between species’ Whether you know which of the goosefoot family you are eating or not, they all taste great and are well worth picking and taking home for dinner.
I was at a meeting the other evening and had to pop out to take a phone call. As I wondered about outside in the ‘garden’ of the hall where the meeting was being held I was delighted to find a couple of wild (or stray) raspberries bushes full of fruit. I picked them and shared them when the call was over.
Wild raspberry bushes are all over, on country lanes and also in hedges in urban areas, the sort of places where you would find blackberry brambles. Easy to identify once they are in fruit, they can be hidden by now by tall nettles or cow parsley, so best to identify their location earlier on.
They won’t be the huge perfect raspberries that you buy in the shops, but they will taste amazing! My best summer fruit recipe is both easy and impressive. Whisk 1/2 pint double cream and gradually add 5 oz caster sugar until cream is standing in peaks (but has not tunred to butter!). Chuck in about 1lb raspberries (or as many as you have)an fold them in – save any really good looking ones for decoration. Serve in your prettiest bowl (or individual dishes – this receipe will do 6 servings).