Jack by the Hedge

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.

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Wild Food Feast

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!

OK, now its springing!

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.

 

Wild Garlic – in Feb??

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….

 

 

 

Hairy Bittercress

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.

 

Weeds?

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