Saturday, 22 June 2013

go green, go fresh, go wild!

Hop tops, delicious steamed with a little butter! 

Unusually cold weather has meant spring was delayed this year with opportunities for picking seasonal wild food being somehow prolonged. Not a bad thing all in all...

A few weeks ago the young shoots of alexanders found in local parks near me could be picked, steamed and eaten much like asparagus. Now they are far too woody. You can still taste their amazing aroma, but only after chewing the pith as you would with a stick of licorice, so it’s hardly worth the trouble.  Apparently if you peel and fry them, they tenderise, and the flowers can be eaten too, but I haven't tried this yet. The wild garlic has all but gone now, but I managed to find some three-cornered garlic the other day, though very much on its last legs. The leaves are delicious, and the flowers are great in a vase!

Wild garlic
Three cornered garlic

Hops are on the attack at the moment, creeping over whatever they can in competition with the bindweed.  The are tasty with butter and pepper after a little steaming.  Don’t be tempted to cut more than 10” from the end though, as you’ll have the same problem as with the Alexanders. The garlic mustard (or Jack-by-the-hedge) is blooming at the moment and ripe for picking, as is the ground elder. 

Garlic mustard

More foraging and culinary tips can be found in Roger Phillips’ Wild Food book, which is has been my bible when out and about looking for lunch. Richard Mabey’s Food for Free publication is great too, and pocket sized which is helpful.  I never leave home without it these days.

Nettle pith and twined bark

Off to pick some nettles now, which turn out to be most useful of plants: use the top leaves to make soup or pesto (using almonds instead of pine nuts), the older leaves to make blue/green dye, and use the bark and pith for cordage and basket weaving.  The plant is a good diuretic and also combats the symptoms of hay fever. Not sure what to do with the roots yet, but will get back to you as soon as I know.

See you are what you weave, make bindweed a bonus and sycamore is for curiosity for more info on edible plants and hedgerow basketry.

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