wild food walk with Rachel Lambert

Rachel’s wild food walks were really well attended today – thanks to Charlotte Marsden who organized the event with us and helped spread the word. (wild food flyer) During the 2hr walk we didn’t travel far along the coastpath but we did do mileage in terms of learning about what grows in our hedgerows..

We started with nettles – used to make all manner of delights such as nettle soup, nettle beer and hopefully at some point Khachapuri, a delicious Georgian cheese bread (I met Nata, who originates from Tbilisi on the walk & we made plans for her to show me how to make it – with nettles). Nettles apparently have very deep roots so they have lots of nutrients such as vitamin C & iron. Harvest young leaves (use scissors & gloves!) picking the top 4 leaves, in recipes use as a spinach replacement.

Oh before going any further..Rachel pointed out to us some basic ground rules about foraging:

  • don’t pick anything that you’re not 100% sure is edible
  • don’t uproot plants or harvest if produce is in limited supply
  • don’t pick from polluted or contaminated areas such as roadsides or streams (where animals are), and avoid picking close to the ground becase of dog pee.
  • watch for plants with dead / dying leaves in vicinity – area may have been chemically treated.

Next up was Hawthorn:

a plant of spring ceremonies..the leaf is good to harvest before the tree flowers (same goes for most leafy edibles) – the bread & cheese tree. Leaves & flowers make tea thats good for heart conditions. The young leaves can be eaten in salads (good with beetroot), berries for jelly or fruit ‘leather’ (remove seeds).

Burdock – burs on the back of the leaves (easy way to identify).  Cleanser for the body – the roots are more palatable when mixed with dandelion. Roots are sliced and cooked in soy sauce in Japan as a side vegetable(I also read somewhere that the young shoots are also good when pickled – Japanese recipe).

Common Sorrel – in flower so you know its Sorrel, be careful as can easily be confused with Lords & Ladies when young (as I experienced!). Another way to distinguish oit is that it tears easily, has a ridge on the stem and a sheen on the leaves rather than the gloss of Lords & Ladies. Sorrell is best used in small amounts (ie not as main vegetable) due to high level of oxalic acid, lemony flavour good addition to salads or puddings.

Brooklime – rounded leaves with toothed edges, masses of it near water spring, be careful in places like this in case of contamination (here, from animal use). Can be eaten steamed or as salad.

Mugwort – ‘once used as a substitute for tea in Cornwall 60/70 years ago’ A Modern Herbal by Maud Grieve.                                  Often used as a culinary herb in the Republic of Georgia

Cleavers / Goose Grass / Sticky Willie – Medicinal cleanser, best young in salads – as gets fiddly to prepare, leaves need to be plucked due to fibrous stems. Can be used in soups and stews too, or as a herbal tea.

Black Mustard – this was a wow all round, certainly my fave – once tasted, never forgotten. Can be identified by rough bumpy inderside of the leaf. Has yellow flowers and black seeds (good in curries). Leaf can be chopped and used in salad, or blended with olive oil to make a dressing for meat, fish, cheese or salads.

Elderflower, smells wonderful,…flowers for fritters (dip in batter & deep fry), make cordial or champagne. The flowers and berries are the only edible parts – the leaves and stems are poisonous. Pick flowers in full sun. Recommendation – gooseberry and elderflower pie (just add one elederflower).

Hogweed – be careful that its not a young Giant Hogweed (both can burn / cause blisters) needs to be cut carefully. Great steamed as a vegetable, or in spicey stews, only use young shoots as the flavour of the larger ones can be too over-powering! Pick before the leaves open up “poor mans asparagus”.

so, thanks Rachel – for a great days learning

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