the forager’s wild food diary – march 9th dartmoor

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This is the start of a regular foraging diary that I will be doing throughout the year. The habitat will change, the seasons will change and so hopefully will the types of wild food found. Sometimes I will just to a list, sometimes some photos, and sometimes, like here, I will show a dish made from the produce.

Yesterday I took a 15 minute stroll around the edge of a rural football pitch on Dartmoor. It is a relatively sheltered habitat of hedgerow, disturbed ground with a stream running along one side providing a damp environment for some plants. It is still late winter here. The sap is not rising, some days are a mild 11-13 degrees, like yesterday. Today is snowing and its heading below zero. But there are signs of spring and new growth is beginning to appear but predominately things are still over-wintering as rosettes.

New growth is good because it is less bitter. As the season advances then the bitterness increases towards and past flowering and eventually getting too much for some modern palates. But here in the first flush of spring things taste mild. However it is sometimes a challenge to ID things. Winter rosettes can look very similar and young growth can easily confuse one species with another. There are no flowers to help ID. For instance I picked Wild Chervil. This is, in its youth can look almost identical to its sister Hemlock (deadly), which tends to grow together. Sometimes even smell cannot help (the smell of  hemlock and wild chervil is very different): because in their youth the aroma is very slight and easily missed. So you have to be very careful indeed.

I picked 20 plants in about 15 minutes. Enough to make me a fresh salad dressed in home-made cider vinegar and rapseed oil, an invigorating and cleansing herbal tea made from 6 herbs, some steamed & buttered golden saxifrage, cleaver tips and chickweed, some crispy young hogweed fried in toasted sesame oil and a herby pesto to go on my pasta.

click on image to enlarge it and see key to plants picked

Main Pic

hogweedetc

young hogweed fried in toasted sesame oil and oak-smoked welsh salt (left) and steamed and buttered chickweed, cleavers and golden saxifrage (right)

pesto2

pesto with wavy bittercress, swine-cress, charlock, sorrel and wild chervil

pestopasta

hot mustard flavours from the cresses and wild mustards, tempered by the sweet aromatics of wild chervil, sorrel, rapeseed oil and pine nuts. Then added to the pasta with shaved parmesan as a garnish.

salad

sorrel, navelwort, daisy, hawkbit, lamb’s lettuce, bittercress, nipplewort, wild chervil lightly dressed in a rapeseed and cider vinegar dressing.

tea

a refreshing and cleansing tea made from yarrow, ground-ivy, red and white deadnettle, herb bennet and plantain. most of these are medicinal.

Disclaimer – This article is NOT telling you to go out and eat wild plants without proper instruction! DO NOT use this article as a guide as to what is safe for you or others to eat. Learn from other sources and know absolutely (110%) what you are picking and consuming and what affect it might have on you and others – before you go off and test your knowledge! The author accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions in this article. Eating wild plants is entirely at your own risk. Just because I have eaten them and/or they are mentioned in this article does not mean that they are safe for anyone to eat. Do not feed wild plants to other people without taking the necessary precautions.

 

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