Thursday, 31 May 2012

Wild Food & Natural Resources Course - May - Extras

May is a fantastic time for food and I thought it a shame not to miss some specific tasty treats so I've decided to do a quick round up of a few of my faves, all of which can be eaten raw on the trail. I'll throw in a few leaf morphology terms, just for good measure.

Jack by the Hedge (Garlic Mustard) is a great addition to a cheese sandwich. Believe it or not, it tastes like a cross between garlic and mustard and can be found by hedges, often at the side of roads. Who'd have known!

Distinct in colour, it can be seen from quite a distance and at speed, which is useful if you're playing Fast Food. The leaves themselves grow between kidney shaped (reinform) and heart shaped (cordate) with a crinkly edges (sinuate margins) with crazy paving looking veins (reticulate).

As always, the younger, smaller, lighter green leaves are significantly less bitter to taste, which is the common objection. Like mustard, I use is sparingly and in combination with another strong flavours.

Wood Sorrel looks a little bit like clover, but has more heart shaped (cordate) leaves which are much lighter in colour and lives in the woods rather than in grass; another victory for habitat.

It tastes like a cross between lemon and apple peel and is a good source of vitamin C. It's great in savoury and sweet salads, stuffed in trout and can be made into a cordial, if you're so inclined. Personally, I just munch it when I find it. As with all wild foods which can be found in abundance, pick the best examples available.

Field, Lamb's, Sheep's or Common Sorrel are all much the same thing, look about the same and taste about the same. They all taste like Wood Sorrel, yet look nothing like it. This is because they are not of the same family at all.

To avoid confusion with the rather poisonous Lords and Ladies (or Cuckoo Pint), with the same fields and hedgerows, take special care in learning the distinct shape at the base of the leaves.

Primrose is subtle tasting flower with edible leaves, albeit quite bitter when mature. You can even eat the roots; boiled or roasted, like many other roots.

There are two general confusion species, the Cow Slip, which is just as edible and the Fox Glove, which is deadly. This is why I tend to wait for them to bloom before embarking on consumption since Fox Gloves do not have these creamy coloured flowers.

Dandelions are another plant we know well. Found in fields and gardens, it can be prolific. All of the plant except the stem is edible.

The flowers can be eaten raw or made into fritters, which are nicer than they sound. The roots can be boiled or roasted and can be ground into a drink that some would say is a coffee substitute, but let's face it, it's just not.

The pinnatisect leaves are sweet when young and are a favourite in salads.

There are many many many plants out and about at the moment, but none so distinct and accessible as these the ones we've covered so far this Spring. Keep with us for Summer as we see distinct changes in the plants we know and watch as the fruits start to form for the Autumn.

Happy foraging and keep an eye out for complementarity articles.

REMEMBER: Do no pick or eat anything you can't positively identify as safe and legal. 

NOTE: This article was written from a UK perspective and identification will almost certainly differ in other places around the world. Seek local advice to confirm positive identification.

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