the forager’s wild food diary – march 22nd exe valley


trout baked with alexander leaves in a goosegrass bundle and garnished with wood sorrel, served with a wild garlic, bittercress and common sorrel salsa verde, steamed alexander stems and a navelwort salad

Yesterday I was, in contrast to the last forager’s diary entry, down in the lowlands along the River Exe just outside Exeter. The season is a good couple of weeks ahead of the high ground on Dartmoor. I had some local wild trout that I wanted to prepare so I quickly gathered what was to hand. I spent no longer than 15 minutes finding and collecting the plants. The dish I made was trout, stuffed with alexander (black lovage) leaves, baked in goosegrass (cleaver) ‘hay’ bundle, garnished in wood sorrel leaves. This was accompanied by a salsa verde of wild garlic leaves, bittercress and common sorrel. Steamed and buttered alexander stems and a light salad of fleshy, mange-tout tasting navelwort leaves completed the dish.

trout garnished with wood sorrel

trout garnished with wood sorrel

The herby, baked-apple scent of the cleavers was topped with the granny-smith apple peel flavour of the wood sorrel and contrasted against the myrrh-like quality of the black lovage. Both the black lovage leaves and cleavers were removed after cooking. The salsa had the freshness of the wild garlic (ramsons), the bite of the bittercress and the twang of the lemony common sorrel. Alexanders (black lovage) was introduced as a vegetable, pot-herb by the romans and was popular up until celery took its crown. The flavour is strong and unique and once the fibrous outer has been peeled becomes delicate and fleshy upon steaming.


salsa verde of wild garlic, common sorrel, bittercress, cider vinegar, lemon, salt and olive oil

shaved alexanders, steamed, buttered and salted

shaved alexanders, steamed, buttered and salted


uncooked trout stuffed with alexander leaves and ready to be wrapped in a goosgrass bundle for baking


goosegrass ‘hay’ bundle’ with trout inside ready for baking


wild garlic (ramsons)


wood sorrel (left) and common sorrel (right)


navelwort (wall pennywort)


cleavers (goosegrass) or sticky willy


hairy bittercress


alexanders (black lovage)


finished dish!

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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