Tag Archives: wild food

Foraging at Settle Stories

We have a fabulous Settle Stories Festival every year and on April 2nd I am doing a free foraging walk and talk in and around Settle Quaker Meeting House. April is a bit early for huge amounts of wild food but I will talk about some common edible plants and point out some foraging spots in central Settle.

Field of chives

There will be wild food samples too.. nettle bhajis, pesto and more!
If you would like to come please book online via the Settle Stories website

Help me out – short survey about wild food

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garden forager

The Garden Forager

The Garden Forager: Edible Delights in your Own Back Yard by Adele Nozedar is a great new addition to the growing number of wild food books. I have mentioned her Hedgerow Handbook in my blog about wild food books and this follows the same format.

Some may say this is not ‘proper’ foraging but these plants are freely available in many gardens and parks so that is fine by me! The plants in The Garden Forager really are the sort of thing that will be familiar to many people.

Common flowers like lavender, calendula, fuschia, lilac and dahlia feature in here as well as many shrubs and ornamental plants. Over 40 plants are mentioned in all including sedum, pyracantha, berberis, hosta, Japanese quince and many more.

The thing I love most about these books is the beautiful pictures by Lizzie Harper. Each one is hand drawn in black and white and then key identifying features are highlighted in colour. This makes it easy to identify things with confidence and each plant has at least one, and often several, recipes for you to try.

If you are new to foraging and want to find wild food close to home this is a great book to start with.

I quite understand many people have issues with Amazon and prefer to shop elsewhere. If so, have a look at Alibris which is like Amazon but nicer and full of independent booksellers.

Andy Hamilton Wild Booze

Wild Booze

Writer and forager Andy Hamilton talks about Wild Booze in this BBC Food Programme on Radio 4 and leads a journey hunting for plants to make incredible drinks, and encourages us to looks again at the wild world all around us.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b044bckf

Andy Hamilton is a keen forager and maker of wild booze. See more about him on his website The Other Andy Hamilton. His book Booze for Free is brilliant and full of simple (and mainly alcoholic) recipes to try.

One of his alcohol free  recipes which I do make often is a sticky willy tonic.. recipe on Forage Kent blog

P1020984Pic from Forage Kent blog

Inspired by Andy’s walks? Try making your own wild drinks with recipes from the BBC Food website: Elderflower cordial, Sloe Gin & Greengage Smash.

Or have a look at the book page for some book suggestions on brewing with herbs and foraged goodies.

sea kale leaf and flowers

Seashore foraging – sea beet and kale

We live in the Yorkshire Dales which  is a really long way from the sea so its great to do a bit of seashore foraging every now and then.  As with all wild food, consider where you find seashore plants.. chemical plants and nuclear power stations are often found on the coast.. so think before you pick!

Thanks to Angie Pedley for the photos – these were taken on Walney Island in Cumbria.

There are many easily identifiable goodies to be found along the seashore and the most common and recognisable is sea beet. The latin name is Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima sea beet looks like and tastes like spinach but is a bit firmer and waxier. Use it in any recipe where you might use spinach. It can be foraged most of the year and we have found some good specimens at the end of November on Anglesey.  The flavour is not so good after it has flowered.

sea beetSea Beet on Walney Island, Cumbria

Sea kale is a fairly common seashore plant and the leaves, roots, stalks and flowers are all edible either raw or cooked. It is a member of the cabbage family and high in vitamin C – the botanic name is Crambe maritima. The stems can be quite thick and I prefer to strip the leaves from the stems, chop the stems up and cook them a bit longer than the leaves. Young leaves are tender and fine eaten raw in salads. If you pick the flowers just before they open they can be cooked and eaten like broccoli.

sea kaleSea kale

sea kale leaf and flowersClose up of sea kale leaf and flowers

If you live near the coast and/or want to learn more about seashore foraging then Edible Seashore is an essential book from John Wright. Click on the image below and it will take you to the book on Amazon – however, I quite understand many people have issues with Amazon and prefer to shop elsewhere. If so, have a look at Alibris UK which is like Amazon but nicer and full of independent booksellers.

Cooking with edible flowers

Many commonly found flowers are edible and the tastes vary widely from very mild flavours in flowers like violets, borage or mallow to peppery or fiery ones like nasturtiums, chives and wild garlic.

Always make absolutely certain you know what any flower is before eating anything.

I found a short article  on delicious.magazine website about cooking with some easily identifiable edible flowers that you probably have around the house or garden anyway and that is a great place to start.

Here are just a few pictures of things you will recognise that you can eat.

Lavenda flowers

 

Lavender

dandelions

 

 

Dandelions

honeysuckle

 

Honeysuckle

 

oxeye daisy

 

 

 

Oxeye and ‘normal’ daisies

 

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Roses

 

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Nasturtiums

 

Many flowers are lovely just as they are in salads, others make great cakes, syrups or jellies or can be used in pancakes, fritters or other savoury dishes.

If you like the idea of using flowers I really recommend Cooking with Flowers: Sweet and Savory Recipes with Rose Petals, Lilacs, Lavender, and Other Edible Flowers which contains a great mix of sweet and savoury recipes as well as excellent pictures and tips on growing, picking and storing your edible flowers. Click on the image below and it will take you to the book on Amazon – however, I quite understand many peoples have issues with Amazon and prefer to shop elsewhere. If so, have a look at Alibris UK which is like Amazon but nicer and full of independent booksellers.

Falling Fruit and Edible Maps

I came across a Treehugger article about  Falling Fruit this week – their website is https://fallingfruit.org/  They have a world map and are encouraging people to add to it to create a wild food larder for anyone to find. A wonderful idea.

From the Falling Fruit website..

Not just a free lunch! Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained sidewalks, and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food.

Our map of urban edibles is not the first of its kind, but we aspire to be the world’s most comprehensive. While our users explore, edit, and add locations of their own, we comb the internet for any pre-existing knowledge, hoping to unite the mapping efforts of foragers, foresters, and freegans everywhere. The imported datasets range from small neighborhood foraging maps to vast professionally-compiled tree inventories. This so far amounts to 745 different types of edibles (most, but not all, are plant species) distributed over 611,390 locations. Beyond the cultivated and commonplace to the exotic flavors of foreign plants and the long-forgotten culinary uses of native plants, foraging in your neighborhood is a journey through time and across cultures.

Join us in celebrating the local and edible! The map is open for anyone to edit, the entire database can be downloaded with just one click, and our code is open-source. If you pick more than you can use or are overwhelmed by the bumper crop from your private trees, we encourage you to donate the surplus produce to charity or your neighbors with the help of local food redistribution programs.

fallingfruitClick on the map and zoom in to see what goodies are in your area.. if there isn’t much then sign up and start pinning!

There are some other cities with well established edbile maps.  Edible York have an edible map of the city and it also has areas of guerilla planting as well as wild food. Urban Edibles is another site which has been mapping the city of Portland, Oregon for a long time.

 

wild food bhajis

Wild Food Bhajis

I did these bhajis at a cookery demo in Leeds yesterday using nettles and they were very popular.  This is a wonderful, cheap and easy recipe for a wide range of foraged, grown or bought food. Bhajis are gluten free and dairy free so if you’re stuck with recipe ideas for ‘intolerant’ friends this is a tasty solution.

You can use pretty much any wild food in these bhajis so have fun and experiment!
Nettles, comfrey, borage, ground elder, cleavers, dandelion leaves and/or petals, ox eye daisies, wild garlic, sorrel, sea beet, mushrooms or any bought or foraged leafy greens like spinach or kale and much more. See pictures at the bottom of this post if you aren’t sure what some of those look like.

Nettles, comfrey, borage and cleavers are hairy things but you don’t need to precook them – a couple of minutes in hot oil will get rid of the hairs but always wear gloves if handling nettles.

Some leaves will shrink quite a bit with cooking so I usually add some thinly sliced onion to bulk things up a bit.

Ingredients
4 rounded tablespoons gram flour (chick pea flour)
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric
1 heaped teaspoon cumin
1 heaped teaspoon garam masala

I often add a teaspoon of either black onion, cumin or fennel seeds but this is optional

wild food bhaji recipePictures are from a batch of dandelion petal and ground elder bhajis

Mix up the gram flour and spices then add enough water to make a consistency like a thick pancake batter
Chop or shred whatever you plan to use and then add to the bhaji mix and stir around so ingredients are covered in the paste. I tend to use scissors to snip leaves and just drop them straight into the mix
Take a small dessert spoon of the mixture and drop into hot vegetable oil in a deep pan or a wok, you may need another spoon to scrape the mixture off
Cook 3 or 4 bhajis at once – they will need a couple of minutes cooking on each side until they start to brown.
Drain on some kitchen roll or keep warm in a low oven until you are ready to eat.
Depending on the bulk of things you add this amount should make between 6-8 good size bhajis or 10-12 smaller ones.

nasturtium dip and bhajis

These bhajis are lovely with a salad and some yoghurt or raita and go beautifully with a nasturtium dip see my blog on nasturtium recipes.

 

 

 

 

 

Some suggestions to try

ground elder dandelion cleavers sticky willy goosegrassGround elder, dandelions, nettles and cleavers (also called sticky willy or goosegrass)

comfrey mustard ground elderComfrey, wild mustard, close up of ground elder

 

Ground Elder – not just a weed!

Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria) is a weed and quite an invasive one at that, but it is very tasty! Some foraging books extol its virtues and others almost completely ignore it. It’s other name is gout weed and tinctures of it have been used to treat gout!

Allegedly brought over by the Romans it has adapted well to our northern climate and can be found pretty much everywhere. It grows from seed and also by loads of underground runners so when it gets going it really is noticeable. We live near a railway line and it has crept over from there across our rockery and the field to the side of our house.

ground elder creeping through wallCreeping through the neighbours wall!

The waxy young leaves are quite spicy a bit like rocket and are very tasty added to salads. The older leaves can be cooked up and used in any recipe you might use spinach. They lose their flavour a bit on cooking but are still very nice in an omelette or a risotto. I often add them to lasagne or pasta dishes to add a bit of colour.

ground elder waxy leafTasty waxy leaves

The uncooked fresh leaves make a very nice pesto .. recipe to follow…

When the ground elder starts to flower (usually in June) the leaves become quite bitter so best to eat the leaves before then. If you are keen you can cut the flowers off as they start to shoot and this will encourage more leaf growth.

If you are unlucky enough to have more ground elder than you would like.. a top tip.. plant some French marigolds. Apparently, a naturally occurring fungus in the marigold roots aggravates the ground elder and so it won’t grow past them.

groundelderflowers

Some Thoughts on Comfrey

If you are new to the idea of foraging then comfrey is something that can be a bit confusing. It has white, pink or purple flowers, can be used as fertiliser and compost accelerator and is much loved by organic gardeners. The leaves and sometimes roots are mentioned in older wild food and medicinal herb books but newer ones tend to go on at length about the potential dangers and talk of toxic components.

See this article from Monica Wilde which goes into the research, history, pros and cons of comfrey.. it is long but well worth reading.  http://monicawilde.com/is-comfrey-edible/

Comfrey

Personally.. I do eat comfrey and have no problem at all with it. Like most things, I believe moderation is the key. The vast majority of people who do eat it are unlikely to have more than a few leaves a month (unlike the poorly rats in the study who ate it constantly for weeks .. and rats don’t normally even eat it).. but it is your choice.

Comfrey is used widely in herbal medicine and homeopathy for its wound healing and bone setting qualities. If you decide to make any medicinal creams or concoctions then symphytum officianale is the one that you need which is the one with white flowers. Most wild comfrey is crossed with other varieties, usually the purple Russian variety, so I suggest you get some ‘proper’ dried comfrey or tincture from a reputable medicinal herbal supplier like Baldwins so you make sure you have the right stuff.