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.
I indeed went to the pub last night and enjoyed sampling 2 beers. One was the tried, tested and trusted Jerusalem from the wonderful MD and Head Brewer at Brampton Brewery – Chris. The other was something a little out of the ordinary and was Portland Black from the Welbeck brewery. An excellent beer and definitely gives the Brampton Bock a run for its money !
So enough of beer, and back to the list of yesterdays finds.
Chickweed – great drifts growing well and at this time of year a treat to steam.
Garlic Mustard – Tiny leaves poking through here and there, still quite bitter at first taste but packing the mustard punch.
Ransoms – The first leaves just showing maybe 4 inches long. A real treat, too early to pick in bulk but what a sweet garlic treat to nibble in bimble.
Blackberry – told you there would be a surprise ! No fruit but the stems are starting to colour up which means we will be into bramble growing season shortly. This means two things – this is your last chance to get rid of brambles in unwanted places and to look forward to bramble tips in a few weeks.
Shepherds purse – mostly found in the dog pee zone so avoided but a good mix with chickweed when clean.
Hawthorn – just coming into bud so only a few weeks til the young leaves are bursting, another wonderful nibble in bimble.
Elder – similarly, just coming into bud so kep a sharp look out for elder buds and shoots for a really unusual pickle.
On the subject of Elder don’t forget the Jelly (Jews) ear fungus. Last week in Graves park (Sheffield) I found a felled tree which clearly was not Elder and had about 2 kilos of useable Jelly ear and a hand full of Velvet Shank growing on it. Cue an interesting evening meal !
This morning out for a swift walk and the first Cumfrey shoots are through – debatable as to edibility but a gift of a plant otherwise.
If you read this far I would be interested to know if Latin plant names would be a help or a hindrance. ?
Well its hardly bleak sitting here in my centrally heated house full of post Christmas food, but then I’m not soley reliant on wild food, unlike the author of my latest bedtime reading.
John Lewis-Stempel’s book ‘The Wild Life’ details his year eating only food that he has caught, picked, foraged or shot himself on his 40 acre farm in Herefordshire. During the winter months there is very little available for foraging, hence the blog being very quiet, but this guy has managed to do a whole year! His story is quite incredible.
Here is one of his receipes for ‘Hogweed Mash’
Only dig roots from where you are absolutely sure Hogweed and only Hogweed grows (some umbellifers are deady poisonious) wash and grate the roots, boil in salted water. Once its cooked, it can be mashed into something resembling sweet potato. Brilliant!