Warmest Day of the Year so Far!

Well, we are at the beginning of March – as I recall pretty near the start of the year, winter is just coming to a close…the media is running with headlines that we are having the warmest day of the year so far…that would be a headline if it was November or even September, but March?? Surely it’s not really news that it is warmer than January or February??

Anyway – rant over – this unseasonably warm weather has resulted in some brilliant very early foraging, before even the snowdrops have finished.  The hawthorn leaves have already started to sprout – grab a handful and pop in a cheese sandwich adding a great nutty taste; wild garlic leaves are popping up in all sorts of places – around streams and ponds – it prefers damp growing conditions – use a handful wherever you would use bulb garlic; garlic mustard in the bottoms of hedges – pick it only in those areas not in the DPZ (dog pee zone); dandelions and nettles are both also coming up – nettle soup will very soon be on the menu for my lunch.

 

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Happy New Year!

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.

 

White!

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!

 

Nettles?

Well admittedly its a little early to be out foraging, but despite the wintery weather, there is still a definate early spring feel out there!  I was out today inspecting my ‘pet’ sorrel patch, but its not doing very much yet, but it won’t be long.  : -)

However, I thought i would just share with you that I came across a most biazarre thing today – my son bought himself some sweets – Rowntrees (Nestle) Jelly Aliens which have in big letters on the front that they contain 25% fruit juice.  In very very very small letters on the back  (which he read – I do have better things to do!) were listed the ingredients – including  ‘Fruit and vegetable concentrates (Hibiscus, Carrot, Pepper, Safflower, Spinach, Nettle)’  Now I have to say that I think that is one of the wierdest selection of ingedients, but I can’t work out why they would put those strange things in – answers on a postcard!

 

Hawthorn

I heard a fantastic description of the arrival of Spring the other day.  I was listening to a Norse tale at Matlock’s monthly Storytelling Cafe http://www.tradartsteam.co.uk/Matlock-Storytelling-Cafe.html where the quite brillinat Giles Abbott entraced us with a tale from the Vikings.  He spoke of Odin, looking with his one eye through his spy glass at all the 9 worlds (of which this one is the middle) and when he saw the first bud of Hawthorn burst that was the first day of spring.

I love that – I am always excited by seeing the first hawthorn leaves – the greening of a brown and lifeless hedge.  I have seen my first hawthron buds burst, so am happy that spring has arrived.  Once the leaves appear, pick them whilst they are ultra green and new and eat them in a cheese sandwich for a great nutty taste or add them to a mixed leaf salad.

Later the flowers (May blossom) and the haws themselves are both edible.

Shropshire Salad

I spent the weekend in a wood in Shropshire (as you do) – lucky me!  Its an ancient woodland on a South facing slope with mighty oaks and a seeming infinate number of lichens.

OK, I’ll come clean I didn’t exactly make a salad, there wasn’t really enough to have done so, but there was lots of wild foods coming through.  I saw Sheep Sorrel, Dandelion, Nettles, Comfrey and Cow Parsley (though to be honest I would not recommend raw nettles)  give them a week or two and there will be plenty for soup or for pop.

Try this, its ready in a just a couple of days and tastes great (possibly wierd or unfamiliar, but still great!)

Take 1 carrier bag of nettel tops, a sliced lemon, 10oz sugar and 1tsp ginger and 1/4 oz cream of tartar.  Pour over 2 1/2 pints boikling water, when it cools to blood temperature, stir in 1/2 oz crumbled yeast.  Cover with cloth and leave in a warm place for 2 days.  Bottle in old lemonade bottles and its ready to drink the next day.  Enjoy!