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….
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 had always wondered what bit of the Witch Hazel the well known tonic is made from. So when I saw Witch Hazel in flower, its tiny yellow and red spikes brightening up the weekend, it reminded me to investigate. Just in case it was the blossom that was used (like saffron from crocus) I thought now would be the best time to check, and it would seem that now is the time.
I was going to write a load of stuff – but it would seem that Handmaiden’s Kitchen has already written almost everthing there is to say about it, so check out her blog…. http://handmaidenkitchen.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/make-your-own-witch-hazel-extract.html
Happy New Year everyone! Over the past few years – December and January have been far too cold for wild food, but not so today. Today was a very mild day for this time of year, if a trifle windy and a bike ride into Derbyshire was very much enjoyed.
I was quite surprised to find the floor of a woodland that we cycled through still covered in Wood Sorrel leaves – not the fresh green of new spring leaves yet, but still a refreshing lemony snack. However, further along the route, on the grass verge of a minor road, I found fresh growing chickweed flourishing and looking very tasty indeed!
I am very much looking forward to a year of foraging and will keep you posted on what’s available in the big outdoors.
All of a sudden over the course of just a week everything has turned white – trees, hedgrows, fields – there are white flowers and blossom (what a fantastic language English is where there is a seperate word for tree flowers!) So many of these white blooms are from edible plants – its quite an exciting time of year to be foraging – there is so much to eat out there – I know the spring has been wet and cold and grey, but the growth is so lush it almost makes up for it.
Trees in blossom at the moment are Hawthorn (May Blossom), Mountain Ash (or Rowan) and Elder (just coming) – May Blossom can be dried and made into tea, Elderflowers is famous for cordial and champagne, just mark the location of the Rowan and come back in the autumn for the berries.
Looking a little lower and the next layer down there is Cow Parsley, who’s early leaves are edible (making sure you are certain its not its very poisonous simular relation Hemlock), Sweet Cecily – again very simular, but instantly recognisable by its distinct aniseed smell and the versitle Jack by the Hedge (Garlic Mustard) and lots of White Deadnettle.
In some shady damp areas the brilliant Wild Garlic (Ransoms) are still in flower and their all pervading smell fills the valley.
Down at your feet at the bottoms of the hedgerow there are still more white flowered foods to be picked. Hairy Bittercress and its cousin Shepherd’s Purse – little peppery plants – very welcome in a spring salad. Last but not least Cickweed with its beautiful star like flowers is abundant and luchious this spring, enjoying as it does a damp spring.
There really is so much out there, and remember its all free for the picking!