Tag Archives: Foraging

Out to lunch

Yesterday I took Fizz out to dinner. Well, it was just a walk really with a bit of foraging but she called it a date and I didn’t mind that.

We got a nice table (hay bale) by the hedgerow and had Sloe berries for starters.

Sloe Berries

Sloe BerriesI know that some people say that you have got to wait for the frosts but I like them as they are. Juicy and refreshing but anyway you can always try one and see if you like it, they won’t kill you.

Sloe BerriesThere were lots of berries on the hawthorn too and you can eat them if you want…

Hawthorn BerriesBut why would you? They are just pip and skin, there is no flesh on them and they are not juicy.

Hawthorn BerriesHere’s me and Fizz playing games with our shadows.

Shadows

Shadows

ShadowsRose hips are nice.

RosehipYou have to break them open and scatter the seeds. The inside is hairy and I just scrape that off with a finger nail…

RosehipWhat’s left is a delicious crunchy little nibble for when you are walking around the field, full of vitamin C.

RosehipBut all this is just nonsense. The berries are sweets, lovely to nibble on as you wander but not proper food.

I was absolutely delighted to find a pond full of proper food.

Water-cressThis is Water-cress, Nasturtium officinale and it something that I would go to the super-market and buy, so that makes it proper food. It is a delicious peppery salad leaf a bit like wild rocket but better and if you have got two slices of bread and a pond full of Water-cress then you have got a really good sandwich and your lunch.

There is so much of it here that I could fill carrier bags up with it but I like my salad fresh so I just take what I will eat today.

Water-cress

Water-cress

Water-cress

Water-cress

Water-cress(There are lots of pictures of Water-cress for identification purposes, just in case you decide to eat Dog’s Mercury after reading this, which could kill you. These pictures have been checked by experts from the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland and are a true and accurate depiction of Nasturtium officinale, it grows in water) 😀

The Best Things In Life Are Free

This post may be a little bit nutty.

Hazel Nuts

Hazel Nuts

Hazel Nuts

Hazel Nuts

Hazel NutsDo you remember these beautiful little flowers that decorated the Hazel tree at the beginning of the year?

Hazel FlowersWell they have gone completely nuts!

Hazel NutsStark raving bonkers!

Hazel nuts are the most fantastic thing. If you are going to forage anything then forage for Hazel nuts. They are extremely good for you. They are horrendously expensive and they keep well.

Also some of my animals absolutely love them.

Hazel Nuts

Hazel Nuts

Hazel Nuts

Hazel NutsI have been watching the Hazel trees for weeks looking for signs of fruit and not finding anything and today I am finding trees loaded with them.

The best things in life are free, you just have to know the right tree.

Taraxacum species (Dandelions)

The first thing to know about Dandelions is that you can’t identify them to species. You can make a stab at it, most of the Dandelions that are going to be in this post are probably Taraxacum officinale, the Common Dandelion but I cannot be sure of that, it is just the most likely species.

DandelionThere are about 250 different species and the differences are very small. It is a job for an expert. If you really needed a positive identification you would have to find an expert and I would guess supply him with plant material, the whole plant, leaves and roots included, you wouldn’t get it from a photograph.

Once you knew what it was you wouldn’t have it any more and the next one you see may well be something else so that would be pretty useless information.. So they are Taraxacum species or just Dandelions and there is nothing wrong with that.

DandelionDandelions are an intrinsic part of childhood. You probably gathered the leaves for your pet Rabbit or Tortoise and played games with the Dandelion clocks.

I like flowers that double as children’s toys, Daisies in chains, Sticky Willy on somebody’s back or Dandelion clocks.

I used to think of them as a solitary little weed that I would see on a roadside verge and that was about all that I thought about them until I came to live on a farm and saw the way that they fill the meadows and pasture in April and now I will look forward to them every year.

Dandelion DandelionThe first thing that you need to know about Dandelions is that they are good to eat. All parts of the Dandelion are edible and there are no poisonous plants that look like Dandelions.

I like to add flowers to salads, well you know what they say, the first taste is with the eyes. The dandelion flower is completely edible but the sepals are bitter so just use the yellow parts. You can create nice effects with lots of individual yellow florets on a dark green leaf. You can add them to anything, decorate a bowl of soup or a pile of mashed potato. I know lots of wild flowers that are good to eat and beautiful but I don’t know any supermarket where you can go and buy a packet of eating flowers anyway they are best picked fresh.

Young leaves are good in salads mixed with other leaves. Older leaves are best cooked, you could steam them. I fry them and add them to omelettes as I would spinach.

Insects like Dandelions.

Red Tailed Bumblebee Buff Tailed Bumblebee Mining BeeThe fact that insects do like them so much is a very good reason for allowing them into your garden. They attract pollinators.

Two other good reasons for having them in your garden: They have a very deep tap root that draws nutrients up from the soil and makes them available to other plants and you might get hungry while gardening.

9I am running out of things to say about Dandelions, I don’t just like to copy stuff from other web sites but yes….

They are a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae) which means they are composite flowers. A Daisy is not a single flower, the yellow centre is actually made up of lots of little yellow flowers called disc florets and the “petals” are each little white flowers called ray florets. A Dandelion doesn’t have any disc florets just lots of little “rays” of sunshine.

DandelionAnd although you can probably find Dandelions all through the summer they peak in the springtime around about April.

All parts of the Dandelion are edible and there are no poisonous plants that look like Dandelions.There is some truth in the belief that touching one will make you wet the bed, they have long been used in medicine as a diuretic. A glass of wine with your dinner will have a similar effect, or orange juice and you shouldn’t let that put you off.

DandelionThe name Dandelion comes from the French dent de lion meaning Lion’s tooth from the jagged shape of the leaf but more commonly in France it is known as Pissenlit and I will just tell you that “lit” is the French  word for bed. The Germans call it Pusteblume meaning “Blowing Flower.”

Pusteblume:

Dandelion Clock Dandelion Clock Dandelion Clock Dandelion Clock Dandelion Clock

The Pin and the Thrum of it.

This is going to be a post about Primroses. I am writing about them because they are in flower, they are beautiful and useful and they are interesting.

1Primula vulgaris is unmistakeable. Each flower grows on a single stalk, it has five pastel yellow petals and some interesting things going on in the centre that we will talk about in a minute.

2They flower in February and go on into May. That makes them one of our first wild flowers to appear and a very welcome sight.

I don’t think that we have to spend too long on identification because everyone knows Primroses.

3So Primroses are edible and useful for the forager. The leaves are quite mild like lettuce and I usually pick a few just to balance the stronger herby flavours of wild food. The flowers are edible too.

A word of caution here. My children are grown up but I would be very cautious of teaching children that it is all right to eat flowers. It isn’t! Some of them are very poisonous.

4Anyway we have done this in another post. If you forage for primroses be sensible and only take a little, try and leave the area so that nobody would ever notice the difference.

Whatever you do DON’T TELL THE MICE!

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Mice don’t have any respect for anything and they are very fond of Primroses. They don’t seem to bother with any of the other flowers but in the lane where I pick my primroses they have been devastated. They only eat the pastel part of the petal, they don’t seem to like the centres.

Let’s talk about the interesting centres now.

6Primrose flowers are hermaphrodite. That means that each flower has both male (Stamens) and female (Pistil) parts but each plant has a sexual bias and that is where the “Pin and the Thrum” come in.

In a Pin flower the pistil is prominent and the stamens are held back within the flower. From the outside it looks like this.

7If you look inside you can see that the stamens are there but they are just not showing.

7.1A Thrum flower is just the opposite.

8This time you can see that the pistil is retained inside the flower and the stamens are prominent.

8aEach plant has it’s own identity and all of the flowers on that plant will be the same. Fertilisation only occurs between a pin and a thrum even though all plants have both parts.

So that is Primroses, beautiful, useful and interesting.

 

 

 

Salad Pinks

Lady’s Smock is in flower. At first I only found one little flower hiding in a ditch.

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It wasn’t long before I was finding them in drifts.

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So this is a post about foraging for food in country lanes and more specifically it is about foraging for Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis).

It is okay to pick flowers for the table, there is even a code of practice laid out for would be foragers by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland.

Code of Conduct (Wild Flowers)

It basically says to be sensible, only take them when they are plentiful, only take a few, leave things looking as you found them.

You can’t uproot flowers and take them home with you.

Before we can forage for anything we have to be able to identify it. There are lots of poisonous plants and my approach has always been to make sure that I know what I am picking, I am not one for trying things out that I am not sure about. This flower is pretty easy to identify.

It is about eighteen inches tall with a head of small pink flowers.

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Each flower has four, pale pink/lilac petals

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The leaflets are long and narrow and they look like this.

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Lady’s Smock is also called Cuckoo  Flower. It flowers from April until late June.

In folk lore Lady’s Smock is often associated with adders, for instance picking it is said to attract adders or that if you pick it you will be bitten by an adder. Such lore makes perfect sense, The flower’s habitat is perfect for adders and it flowers during the adders breeding season (Late April/early May) a time when these snakes are most easy to approach and most often seen because they are not so wary of people, they are focussed on the breeding.

The plant has a long history of medicinal use. It was once a very popular treatment for epilepsy at a time when epilepsy was regarded as a form of madness and cures were broadly based on the magical qualities of the plant. More sensibly it was seen as a good cure for scurvy and it probably was, it is very high in vitamin C, which is an excellent reason for putting it in your salad.

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Okay Lady’s Smock is just a flavour, it is not the main course, it has a peppery flavour. I have heard it likened to Radish with a bit of a hot kick but I would say more like Rocket. I like it very much.

I have also collected Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum), Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and Primrose (Primula vulgaris). I will write about them in other posts. It all makes for a nice little salad dish and it is all free. I hate buying and throwing out bags of salad when it is growing just down the lane.

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Now I just have to jazz that up a little bit.

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Every part of the Lady’s Smock is edible. I have left out the stems because I find them stringy but you can eat them. The  flowers are delicious.

I am having my salad with a roast chicken as I did this yesterday (Sunday) and I am serving it with mango sauce (Chicken gravy with a couple of spoonfuls of mango chutney stirred in) and roast potatoes.

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Well that was yesterday and that has been eaten, it was the best Sunday roast ever. Fortunately I had a bag of leaves left over.

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As I write this I am enjoying black coffee and a cold chicken sandwich with sweet pepper and weeds and it is the best sandwich that I have ever had in my life.

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Until next time.