Hi all! (By which I mean my three friends who keep refreshing the page to make me feel good). I was going to put up a recipe for chocolate brownies, but my life is such that I’ve been eating mounds of cake and chocolate over the last few days. So I’m going to wait a while to take pics etc for that and instead talk to you about foraging...
Have you ever foraged for food? It’s something I like to try in the summer months: it gets me out of the house and I get to eat for free!
It should be noted (because I don’t want you poisoning yourselves and suing me) that foraging should only be done if you know exactly what you’re doing. Do not eat anything unless you know for definite what it is and that it is safe. Oh, and for goodness’ sake, wash it first!!
Alright, now on to foraging.
I’m lucky enough to live in the countryside (and have tolerant neighbours) so there’s plenty of room to go out and about foraging, but if you live in town you could always try parks or take a little trip out with your friends. Just make sure you get permission from whoever owns the land, and don’t pick too much of anything—you might be depriving the local wildlife! Alternatively, you can have a go at growing your own food, but more on that in a moment.
Among the most common plants are stinging nettles, which are great in nettle soup and, contrary to popular belief, will not sting your throat when cooked. You can find them almost all year round. Make sure you wear gloves when you pick them, though. Just strip off the leaves and boil them up in a soup or stew.
A popular favourite is blackberries, which grow on brambles usually in hedgerows. They’re tasty on their own or can be eaten in pies, crumbles or smoothies. They make a perfect pair with apple. Here in Ireland, blackberries will be in season in the early Autumn (Aug-Sept) but this varies a lot depending on the weather.
You may end up finding so many that you can freeze them for use all year round.
Also take a look out for some wild strawberries growing in hedges. These are even smaller than blackberries but they pack quite a punch! They are totally different from the ones in the shops, a little acidic, a bit like a strawberry-flavoured chewy sweet. Last year I spotted them at the end of August, and I can’t wait to look this year!
It’s well worth your while taking someone with you who knows the area, perhaps an older person who is used to country living. I went along with my dad one day and he found a hazelnut tree near his old family home. He can recognise one of these trees a mile off and knows when they’re in season. Don’t expect them to be brown like in a packet. They will be green and surrounded by leaves, but you can pull them off the branch easily and open them with a nutcracker.
You might be able to find some mushrooms, but don’t go near them unless they’ve been identified as safe. Unfortunately I’m not an expert so I can’t tell you how to find them, but someone in your area might now of a place where safe, edible mushrooms grow every year.
Dandelions can be eaten in soups, salads and sandwiches. The whole plant is safe to eat, and I have to say that I personally have never been rendered incontinent.
My latest discovery is wild garlic, which you might even find in your own garden. It can be identified because it smells of the garlic you’d have in your kitchen. The leaves are long, flat and green—Google a photo as I’m having camera issues right now! It can be used in soups or salads and the bulbs can be eaten too, though they’re not as large or plentiful.
When the weather improves, come back to "Unlucky For Some" to see if I was lucky enough to find you all some pictures of the beautiful flora near my home.
If you decide to grow (or buy, for that matter) your own plants, you might be surprised to find out which parts you can eat. Take the pea plant for example, all parts of which are edible. The pods can be eaten raw or stir-fried, but make sure you peel off the inside layer which looks like plastic and is pretty much the same to eat. Pea leaves are very sweet, absolutely delicious in salads. Also, did you know that you can eat the leaves of beetroot and radishes? Also, don’t throw away things like cabbage heart and broccoli stalk—the entire vegetable can be used if you’re creative enough! Try snacking raw, steaming or stir-frying for something a little different.
Do you suspect you may have a green thumb? Finger? Toes? Set onions, leeks and cabbages are a great place to start as they are quite easy to grow and tend to be successful. If you haven’t got much room or aren’t a fan of the great outdoors, you can buy potted herbs in most supermarkets which will reside quite happily on the windowsill. Personally I love to have coriander in my kitchen in the summer. Mint is a very sturdy plant, will pretty much grow itself, and smells gorgeous. Then there’s the old reliable, cress. When I was very little I used to love growing cress as all you need is seeds, some cotton wool and water and there is a very quick return—always important to a five year old!