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Friday, 17 April 2015

Foragers Diary; Spring Greens (and yellows and purples)

Over the last few weeks an awful lot of new growth has been appearing all over the place so it's time to bring back the foragers diary with a look at some of the edible greens and flowers that are starting to appear now that spring has arrived.

Wild garlic or 'ramsons' (Allium ursinium) are starting to appear and you will often smell them before you seen them especially if they have been trampled at all. A delicious wild vegetable, they can be used in the kitchen like you would use spring onions, in stir fry's or salads but also make a fantastic ingredient in soups and stews.  

Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) is a common plant in lawns and grassy areas, you'll know if you have it in your garden because it smells amazing if you mow over a big patch of it, not dissimilar to mint.  More  of a plant for flavourings or infusions then anything else, you certainly wouldn't want to eat a lot of it in one sitting, imaging eating a mouthful of toothpaste; you get the idea.  

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) peeking up through the moss, a lovely sharp flavoured plant almost like apple peel or lemons. 

Colts Foot (Tusilago farfara) superficially similar to the dandelion it is actually part of the sunflower family, flowers, stems all edible and quite delicious raw or even better preserved in honey as a sweet snack. The leaves at the base of this specimen belong to a primrose, the leaves of the colts foot don't come out until much later than the flowers.    

The unassuming daisy (Bellis perennis) edible and tasty just as it is; check out the cake I was made last fathers Day below; can you tell what the theme of the cake was?

Ok so they are Ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) rather than the smaller daisies. 

Sticky-weed, goose-grass. cleavers (Galium aparine) call them what you will, they have a nice flavour not dissimilar to garden peas, I often combine them with nettles when preparing a nettle soup. You should really cook them before eating them and only pick the freshest softest foliage as the hairs on the leaves and stems can be irritating if eaten raw.  

Nettle (Urtica dioica) you all know what to do with this; at this time of year it's an excellent wild green ,soup ingredient, wilted briefly over a fire it can be added to salads, deep fried like seaweed, later in the year harvest the stems for cordage. 

Red dead nettle (Lamium purpureum), much closer to ground ivy in appearance than it is to the common nettle. the flowers are edible, my children call them and the larger flowers of white dead nettle 'sweets' and actively look for them whenever we are out and about.  

Chickweed (Stellaria media) a delicious plant, one I would happily eat raw as a vegetable accompaniment to most meals. I also use it a lot to bulk out nettle soups and counteract that acidic flavour that they sometimes have. Like the cleavers an almost garden pea like flavour but without the irritating gripping hairs.

A humble bumble bee snacking on the nectar from the flowers of the Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), I'm looking forward to collecting the fruit a bit later in the year and making a fresh batch of cordial and some more delicious grape sauce to compliment wild meat such as pigeon, hare and venison.  

The first lime (Tilia cordata) leaves I have seen this year bursting out and ready to go in a salad. These leaves make a good staple ingredient in wild salads. 

So that's your five a day sorted, how do we go about putting some meat on the plate at this time of year now that most of the game seasons are over? Think about some of those pest species that can be controlled under the general licence species maybe we can eat some of those?

More coming in the foragers diary soon, including taste tests, recipes and DIY butchery.


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