the forager’s diary: spring (april) salad, dartmoor

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Well, the grass is ris and the bird is on the wing. So time for a wander around the surrounding woodland margins to see what detoxifying superfood salad I can forage from the new spring shoots.

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Clockwise from midday: jack-by-the-hedge (garlic-mustard), pennywort, chickweed, dandelion leaves and flowers, cow parsley, daisy, young beech leaves, young hawthorn leaves, sweet cecily, greater plantain, common sorrel, pink purslane and flowers, primrose and flowers. Then garnished with roughly chopped spruce buds. 14 plants in all.

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Jack by the hedge gives a garlic-mustard kick, pennywort a fleshy mange-tout, chickweed tastes of mild lettuce, dandelion a nice bitter kick from the lettuce-like leaves, with its dismembered florets run through the salad for colour. Cow parsley is also called wild chervil and has the vague spiciness of its garden cousin, daisy is for garnish, beech leaves have a slightly bitter, nutty and lemony twist, plantain has a slight bitterness too, but more in a tannic way, the young hawthorn also has a nutty, astringent bite to it and a background of almond, sweet cecily is sweet and aniseed, sorrel is all tart lemon and the pink purslane a wonderful earthy beetroot. Finally primrose has a turkish delight or rosewater quality to it that balances the whole salad. The final garnish of spruce buds gives a bright lemony dressing to the ensemble. This salad packs a punch. Washed down with a fresh, new season cider. Perfect.

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