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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

More Damsons

It seemed such a waste to take an empty lunch box home after I'd eaten my sandwiches today so i filled it with some of those damsons i spotted yesterday.

I also spotted this rowan with its red fruit shining through the undergrowth so I'll be making use of those soon.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Damsons

Its been a while since i posted here despite saying that this blog would be almost daily but I've had a busy few weeks away from convenient internet access and will be  backdating some posts to include interesting wild edibles from my busy summer.

But i thought I'd share these damsons with you that i spotted today, think minature plum crossed between giant sloe and they make a deliciois jam.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Horseradish

Our normal experience of horseradish might be in a small jar from a shop to be spread on our roast beef on a Sunday afternoon, but horseradish is a actually easily, readily and freely available but most roadsides in the UK. 

The horseradish plant produces these tall leaves, but it's the root you are after. 
A horseradish leaf and a 20 pence piece for scale, the serrated leaf edges are another clue to help you ID this species and if you need a final clue it smells like horseradish (no kidding). There have been cases (mainly in crime and medical dramas) of confusion between horseradish and hemlock but just compare the foliage from the picture above and the one below to see if you would make that same mistake (additionally horseradish smells of horseradish and hemlock smells of urine)
Conium.jpg
Hemlock stems are long and smooth with purple spots with carrot like leaves, whereas the horseradish has leaves coming strait from the ground. 

A horeradish root
cleaned, peeled and grated horseradish root
Rather than making horseradish sauce with this batch of foraged horseradish I made horseradish stuffing to go with this Sundays dinner. 

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Comfrey Fritters

Comfrey is a fairly common plant in the UK and is regularly used by organic gardeners as a fertiliser, it has been used in traditional medicine and I enjoy turning it into delicious fritters. There is some debate over the safety of ingesting comfrey, or certain types of it due to some toxins it contains and for that reason I stick to using common comfrey rather than any of it's cultivars and just eat the leaves rather than the roots.  
Common Comfrey has white flowers, it can also have pale pink or lilac coloured flowers but if you stick to the ones that are white you wont mistake it for it's 'domestic' cousins such as Russian comfrey. 
It's these leaves that your after, you will notice that they are fleshy and thick but as with all wild food go for the younger ones. 
My daughter Lillie helped me collect some recently. 

And the delicious end product; I just deep fry the leaves after dipping them into what is basically a pancake batter, try it I guarantee you'll enjoy them. 

Friday, 12 August 2016

Front Garden

My front garden is tiny, and fairly untidy, we have only planted one plant in it since moving in almost three years ago but there is an abundance of edible plants there anyway, today I'll introduce you to them; 

Sow Thistle; edible roots, stems and leaves (picked when young and tender and be careful of the spines) use the leaves as a green vegetable like spinach or mixed with other leaves in a salad or used as a wild pesto, they do get fairly bitter as they get older and tougher though. 
Stinging nettle; A great source of vitamin C, can be wilted over a fire and eaten almost raw as part of a salad, fried until crispy and eaten like seaweed, turned into soups, teas and the stems are great for making string (I'll post a few other things in the coming weeks about the non-edible aspects of foraging).
Procumbent yellow-sorrel or creeping woodsorrel, a tangy wild edible which can be used as an ingredient in salads or even used in deserts, it tastes like apple peel. 
Pineapple weed; can be used to flavour drinks or even candied.
Mint; although this was clearly planted in the garden by someone before we moved in mint and it's relations do often turn up in the wild. 
Fuscia; this is the one thing we planted in the front garden and is often overlooked as an edible but after the flowers it does produce these edible berries;  

Well I hope you've enjoyed the short tour of my edible front garden and it's given you a few ideas of the kind of things you might find in your own garden. 

Geoff 


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Another Urban Foraging Encounter

Stag's Horn Sumac or Sumach takes it's name from Carl Linnaeus's observation that it's branches are rough and hairy like a deer antler in velvet. It is another non native plant that we can take advantage of as a wild food. It used to be planted as an ornamental because of it's velvety branches, ash like leaves and attractive furry pink/purple fruit.
These fruit are arranged in drupes or pannicles and are what you as a forager are after. They can be infused in water to make a warm  tea or tangy cold drink or can be dried and used as a spice or seasoning.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Snowberry

Fruit of the Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)
The other day I posted a shot video on the Bushcraft Education facebook page of my daughter Lillie giving my son Michael a snowberry and his reaction to the hideously bitter fruit. I wanted to clarify a bit about snowberry, it is not native to the UK but instead was introduced from it's native North America as an ornament and as cover for game birds. Snowberry is related to honeysuckle and it's foliage is poisonous; among other things it contains saponins (which make plants that contain them, soapwort, the leaves of horse chestnut etc.., useful as soap, but shouldn't be ingested) and other toxins. 

The berries of Common Snowberry however have been used as 'famine food' in North America in centuries gone by but were never a favorite food (McWilliams 2000). There have been records of poisoning from snowberry fruit and it may be that some species (there are over a dozen) are more poisonous than others, but the Common Snowberry was certainly used as food and I have eaten plenty and never suffered any ill effects, although they should not be eaten in large quantities and if they were would certainly make you sick. While I wouldn't recommend them as a tasty treat like wineberries, mulberries, blackberries or really any other wild fruit they are worth knowing about. 


Thursday, 4 August 2016

Almost ready

Foraging for wild food isn't just about finding things you can eat strait away, if you want your foraging to be about more than just luck you need to build up a bank of knowledge of what you can find where. Recently I've spotted all of these which i will return for in a few weeks or months when they are ripe.

From top tp bottom: blackberries, strawberry tree fruit, haws and pears.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

More free food from supermarkets

These wineberries, also called Japanese raspberries, have been a regular part of my summer foraging over the last couple of years since we found them growing in a supermarket car park, and i grabbed a handfull today on the way to get some milk.

They look a little like the delicious cloudberry except they grow on a plant much more reminicent of a real raspberry with tall upright stems. I've never actually tried including them in any cooking because they are far too tasty to have ever made it as far as the kitchen. They aren't a native plant but supermarkets, industrial parks, swimming pools and other modern developments seem to fill up their flower beds with all sorts of interesting edibles that we wouldn't normally find in the UK.
 

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Recognising Redshank (not the bird)

I've been at Riddy Wood recently running a family bushcraft course and so havent been able to update this blog for a few days.
For information about future courses check out the BushcraftEducation website.

On to the topic of foraging and wild food though: Redshanks are another useful wild green vegetable which just as the fat hen i used the other day makes a good ingredient for a quiche or as a spinache substitute. It goes under a couple of other names such as ladies thumb and jesusplant.

It's part of the buckwheat family, and you can see the similarity in the seed head. Its another good one to try over the summer months and your as likely to find it forcing its way up through the cracks in a pavement as at the edge of an arable field.

Enjoy it

Geoff