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Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Foragers Diary; March 2018

Sometimes March can still be a bit sparse, in fact in March of 1942 the Norwegian commandos tasked with destroying a heavy water plant had to resort to some really strange wild food; 

In Norway in 1942 the scarcity of food posed a challenge to the Norwegian commandos of Operation Grouse. Jens-Anton PoulssonKnut HauglandClaus Helberg and Arne Kjelstrup, arrived by parachute in advance of a larger force of British airborne troops. They were to prepare for the attack on the heavy water factory in Rjukan, an attack which failed when the gliders carrying the troops crashed. The Grouse party spent months surviving on the Hardanga plateu while another attack was planned and Operation Gunnerside could be launched. This operation was a success and played an instrumental part in preventing the development of nuclear weapons by the Nazi's. 

While waiting for the arrival of Gunnerside the Grouse team survived thanks to their skills as outdoorsmen, their ability to hunt reindeer and their resourcefulness in eating the partly digested reindeer moss collected from the rumen of the deer they killed.  

Reindeer moss is common in upland areas throughout the UK and Europe. 

The reindeer moss was one of the few plant foods they could forage at that time of year and humans can't digest it properly. The grouse party instead survived by using the partly digested moss from the rumen of the deer. Not something I'm in a hurry to try.

Much more palatable are the occasional 'confused' fungi that sometimes pop up thanks to the often strange British weather.

I'm not sure weather this wood bluet was early, late or just confused but it was nice to see it although I wouldn't expect any of them at this time of year. 

With the pheasant and partridge and duck seasons now long over I have to look to other sources of wild game meat, muntjac are always in season and in March you can still shoot Chinese water deer, roe does and in fact all deer except roe bucks during March in England and Wales. That will change at the end of the month when all the hinds and does (except muntjac) and buck and doe Chinese water deer go out of season. This protects them during the later stages of their pregnancies and fawning. 

As well as deer rabbits and other 'vermin' are still available to foragers and wild food enthusiasts, but with venison and other tastier meat's available I find I am less enthusiastic about rabbit now than I used to be. That's not to say it's not nice, but it does have that rabbity flavour and smell which I'm sure those of you who have eaten lots of them will be familiar with. 

To make the most of rabbit my favourite way to cook them is as a stir fry or in spicy home made samosas with wild herbs and spices. I've got to wait another month or six weeks for all the ingredients I need for that to grow so I will share the somosa recipe with you later in the year but for a rabbit stir fry try this;

3 3/4 grown rabbits (this is enough for a meal for my whole family and the smaller ones are nice and tender) skinned and gutted. 
Soy sauce 2 table spoons
fresh ginger (to taste)
red and green chillies (to taste; I use two or three)
spring onions
honey (plenty, I use a bout half a jar, this will give you a nice sticky glaze to the meat)
bean sprouts 
water chestnuts
sesame oil

Remove the meat from the bones and chop evenly. Marinade the rabbit meat in the soy sauce, finely chopped ginger, chillies and honey for a couple of hours. Finely chop the onions and add them to the other vegetables. Once the marinade is complete heat some sesame oil in a deep wok or pan and cook the meat and veg together for a few minutes until the rabbit is cooked through. Serve with rice or noodles. 

For those of you who want to eat more wild food, and with a particular interest in trying game meat there are some exceptional books out there on the topic, I always say that it is best to save money on kit and buy books instead so give some of these a try; 

 You will start to find more and more wild greens in March going into April and I will dedicate next months foragers diary summary to wild greens.

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