Spring into free food

Posted on 22nd April, 2019

 

Spring’s in full swing and apart from the urge to get outside to sow vegetable seeds and tidy up the plot it’s a great time to forage wild greens. OK so I’m lucky as I’m in North Wales, plenty of rural, off the beaten track locations to choose from but really wherever there’s a scrap of land wild plants will take off. Obviously in well-manicured parks, graveyards and roadsides you need to be wary of over-enthusiastic councils spraying anything that is deemed to be a weed nevertheless there is still scope to find common plants that are not only edible but nutritious.

Why bother I hear you ask? Well it’s a way of re-engaging with the natural world, it’s seasonal, it teaches children about nature need I go on? I’m sure you have a picture in your head of a forager, bearded, scruffy, open-toed sandals, crumpled hat…well here’s the thing you’d be wrong. There are professional foragers out there these days with their own special places, places where the best mushrooms are, places where they can collect nuts, leaves, samphire. You name it, if it’s edible they’ll collect it. Yet few ‘ordinary’ people have a go and I’m not sure why. I guess it’s a mix of fear of being poisoned and disinterest, yet there is a movement back towards real food, slow food, natural food so it’s worth a try (the link is to a website created by Wild Food UK Team-they do courses too). For example, you’re camping (glamping, caravanning & motor-homing all count) and you’ve got the ubiquitous burgers, sausages (veggie or otherwise) but the campsite has no shop and the nearest village is too far to walk and you’ve already started on the beer/wine/gin so driving is out of the question. Why not take a walk around the campsite, along a footpath, along the seafront or through the woods and see what you can collect?  Some leaves are great as salad leaves, others may need a little cooking but it’s fresh and free.

 

This Easter weekend we have been really lucky with the weather and I collected ‘Hedge Garlic’ (Jack by the hedge) and white deadnettle to add to a few leaves of rainbow chard and a handful of chives that have started to sprout in the garden. The chard has overwintered really well and the chives have sprung up since the weather has warmed up. The joy of a vegetable garden is that some plants survive and provide when there’s little else growing, chard is a great example. The first veggie BBQ of the year then was accompanied by steamed greens, wrapped in a foil parcel and cooked in the coals.

 

Follow this link for a more in depth look at what you can and can’t collect across the seasons in the UK and I hope you’ll have a go.

 

This isn’t a recipe as such but if you collect your greens, wash thoroughly, chop into medium sized pieces you can pile into the centre of a foil square, sprinkle with wild garlic puree (simply wash wild garlic add a little oil and seasoning and whizz up in a food processor. Put into sterilized jars and keep in the fridge), I added a little lemon juice but be aware hedge garlic is sometimes a bit bitter and lemon accentuates this. Season with a little sea salt. Bring the edges of the foil together and scrunch together to seal the parcel, make sure there is space for the moisture to create steam. A few minutes in the hot coals, while the burgers etc are cooking will be enough time.

  

Hedge Garlic (Jack by the hedge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve added photos of the plants in situ, plus the selection I used and the parcel before and after. Enjoy, experiment, don’t be afraid. But have fun 😊

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