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Kale Yard soup

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I I feel that finally I’ve cracked winter and spring green growing for years I’d had a few successes but never enough to make more than a token gesture at dinner time. Its the end of February and we’ve had Leeks, Artichokes, Salad leaf and 5 types of brassica all ready for the kitchen for the past few months. In a bid to celebrate this bounty I decided to make a ‘half the garden soup’ with what I had to hand in the veg patch.

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5 Cabbage Kale Yard Soup

Bunch of Cavolo Nero

Bunch of Russian Kale

Bunch of Curly Kale

Bunch of Spring Cabbage

Bunch of left over Wild Cabbage or you could use Purple sprouting Broccoli leaves

5 Leeks

4 medium Potatoes (the last of my pink fur apples I had in store/had forgotten about)

5 cloves of Garlic

Veg or Chicken stock

Sprig of sage and thyme

Wash and chop the leeks, Crush the Garlic and add to a large pan with a knob of butter and the chopped herbs, let them all sweat. As that’s doing its thing wash and remove the tougher stalks from the Cavolo Nero and the Curly kale but the others should be fine as they soften quicker, chop then add them to the pan. This allows them to wilt. Next add your stock. At this point I put the soup into a food mixer as we don’t have a hand blender, with the potato and blitz keeping a bit of texture. Add a vigorous twist of black pepper and a pinch of salt and simmer for 10 mins. You could add chilli which would have been good but I wanted the taste of the garden.

Serve with cream if your greedy like me, and a huge crusty bread. done grew it ate it!

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Sea cabbage and the politics of foraging.

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Sea cabbage Brassica oleracea

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Not sure if this is a lucky accident or deliberate but useful having such a lush green veg by the back door.

Went for my first coastal forage of the year on Saturday armed with everything I’d need to collect a large haul of shellfish, so I was a little disappointed when I couldn’t find a single mussel. Tried a beach Ive never been to before, Staithes then walking along the beach to Port Mulgrave and back along the cliff tops. Its a beautiful place just a little further up the coast from Whitby.

However even though I was without protein I was delighted to find Sea Cabbage in abundance, for a plant which is quite rare it was everywhere. With such a profusion of plants I thought it would be fine to take a couple of handfuls but there lies the problem, not can I take but should I take? The media recently seem to be focusing in on the ‘gangs’ of foragers stripping the countryside of it’s native plants and fungi. Recently 15 people were in court for collecting fungi from Epping forest.

For those people who collect commercially I have no sympathy, nothing is going to give foragers a bad name more than people who turn a resource into a commodity. Like most wild food collectors I take what I need and only when I can see it in abundance not stripping a solitary plant or picking every fruit from a bush. Even if you take out the ethics and conservation issues it makes little sense destroying a harvest for the future, making sure there is enough to set seed or keep on producing means you can keep coming back to it, surely that’s the whole point of foraging? tapping into a resource not destroying it.

I think that as a forager you feel a sense of stewardship for an area, the life of the insects and birds etc which rely and have always relied on that patch are all part of it. Considering the bigger picture is important for me, I don’t need to pick and gather from the wild, I want to, I need to remember that I’m sharing this resource and it’s not just there for my benefit. Pick mindfully.

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A few of the rare wild greens.

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Foraging everyday

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Bay Bolete Boletus badius

Foraged food is never going to make up a huge amount of my daily food and unless I spend all my time out looking for it I doubt it ever will. I’m not as committed as Fergus Drennan but I’m keen and try when I can to incorporate it into any trip I make out of the front door. There in lies the point not to see foraging for food as an exercise outside my daily routine but as part of it.

Without making much of an effort I’m slowly changing my habits to incorporate foraging into my life, simply changing my route to the supermarket ( I can’t live without hot pepper sauce) takes me through a park, an open field and a woodland and it only adds about 10 minutes to my journey. I’m opened up to the wild larder before I even get to the shops, the low shelves for mushrooms, the middle for berries and the best apples always on a high shelf that I need to ask a passerby to reach for me.

I can’t seem to help exuding enthusiasm for foraging at the moment I’ve dabbled for years nibbling blackberries and scrumping, sorry ‘picking’ apples but this year I seem to have jumped in head first, perhaps it’s the brilliant hedgerow harvests this year that have wet my appetite but I think that it’s my true belief that eating Strawberries in February is wrong and buying apples in autumn is ridiculous. Eating with the seasons makes meal times better, whatever reason you do it for, knowing that a certain food is about to come into season, planning recipes for it or preserving it for later in the year makes food more exciting and if that’s not enough to wet your appetite then I’ll let you into a little secret, all this food that you can get, which you can just go and pick is FREE!!

If I had a dog it would be easier as I’d have more of an excuse to walk the streets and parks everyday but just changing my route to the shop has made life better, cheaper and sweeter and it is a change I intend to stick to.

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Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria Yeah I know this ones not edible unless you want to dance with the fairies but it’s a great photo.

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Garden April 19

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The garden is finally giving up some produce for the table. I missed purple sprouting of the shot. The chickens are beginning to lay again too all is well.

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