food for free part 1

I promise not to bore you to death with endless posts about foraging but if you really are seeking to downshift, to get away from packaging, to eat truly fresh food then learning to forage is essential.  It is also great fun, what is not to like about going for a walk and coming back with supper?

If you are in the UK (or even not, one of our fellow foragers and his wife are regular’s on Chris and Rose’s courses and they live in Isreal!) then you really cannot do much better than have a look at Taste the Wild.  Chris and Rose and immensely knowledgeable and very good company.  We have now been on two of their courses and I am eyeing up a few more.  I have been on other courses, but I can say hand on heart, their’s were the best.

These were some of the things we found on our hilltop walk on Saturday morning.

Hogweed

 

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This is everywhere and not hard to find.  The buds make a delicious green vegetable and the dried seeds are wonderful in baking.  It is a member of the notorious carrot family  (which includes several severely poisonous plants including hemlock and hemlock water dropwort) Notice the leaves.  If you are unsure then avoid any of the umberliferous plants with small fern like leaves.   Hogweed has larger fully formed leaves.

Chickweed

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You will have this in your garden.  I guarantee it.  If you are a keen gardener you will be intimately familiar with it, well help is at hand, you can pull it up and eat it.  It is easily identifiable and only likely to be confused with yellow pimpernel (which is poisonous) however, the clue is in the name.  Chickweed has tiny white flowers whilst those of the pimpernel are yellow.  Also if you crush the leaf of chickweed it will crumple to mush whist the pimpernel will uncurl again.  Finally, if you snap the stem chickweed leaves a small string between the two halves whilst the pimpernel breaks into two separate pieces.  The stem of chickweed also has a row of tiny hairs along one side – pimpernels are bald!

It is an excellent addition to salads, green soups, stir fries and added to anything where you might use something like spinach eg. fritters, omelettes etc.

 

Sorrel

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Another commonly foraged plant.  Always pick in open grassland in full sun and not under hedgerows or trees where you may confuse it with lords and ladies.  L&L is poisonous but the leaves are fundamentally different.  Sorrell has pointed backwards pointing lobes whereas those of L&L are always rounded. The sorrel flowers are small and red and as they often grow alongside buttercups you can sometimes see a red haze above the yellow.

The flavour is quite strong so is best mixed with gentler flavour leaves in a salad and they make a tremendous sauce or stuffing and are wonderful in omelettes.  However if you were to eat vast quantities of sorrel every day you could do yourself some damage due to the high oxalic acid content.

 

Fat Hen

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I love this name, I imagine a huge great hen waddling round the courtyard.  I have no idea where the name comes from though. It grows best on disturbed, nitrogen rich soil it is very salt tolerant and is thus common along the coast.  It is the bane of almost every gardener and  very easy to find.  However they can be mistaken for the nightshade family so stick to the younger plants which have a distinctive mealy surface or to the fully grown plants with their distinctive spikes of tiny whitish flowers.

Use the leaves as a green vegetable including the flower spikes.

 

Yarrow

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Although umberliferous it is easy to distinguish from the poisonous plants  as the groups of florets are much smaller and the  leaves are long featherlike spears.  Can group up to only about 18″ so is also much smaller.  Use the leaves in salad, they are quite peppery and dried they make a good tea.

Coltsfoot

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Anyone remember coltsfoot rock?    It is made exclusively by Stockley’s Sweets in Lancashire using coltsfoot extract.

The underside of the leaf is downy and the plant produces a flower not unlike that of the dandelion, thought the leaves are distinctly different.  The flavour is slightly aniseedy and can be used as a flavouring as well as in salads.  The flowers are also edible.

Apparently the soft underside is easily rubbed off and before the free availability of matches the leaves were wrapped in a cloth dipped in a saltpetre solution and dried in the sun.  They were then used as tinder.

 

Ribwort Plantain

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There are plenty of plantains and you may well have them in your garden, all over your lawn!  We do,though mainly in the meadow rather than the lawn.

The leaves are pretty uninspiring but the tips of the seed head are lovely in salads, pizza etc. with a mushroomy taste

 

11 thoughts on “food for free part 1

    • You can still forage in London! Some of the easiest plants to find are “common weeds” You will have them in the tiniest London back garden and certainly in one of the many green spaces London is famed for! Just avoid those by the side of the road and be aware of popular dog poo areas (though we get those in fields in the country too!)

  1. What fun! I love foraging and this post reminds me that I haven’t been out to forage in quite some time. Not since spring, in fact, when the kids and I went in search of mushrooms and found everything but!

  2. Pingback: Wear the Wild | one pair of shoes at a time

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