Tag Archives: wild food

A little early morning sun

A little early morning sun

Garden March 3

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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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Strange fairytale edibles

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Scarlet Elf cups

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Jelly ears

These must be some of the oddest edible mushrooms lurking in the undergrowth on a wet February afternoon or stuck to the underside of a dead twisted Elder they couldn’t be more fairytale.

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The Best Wild fruit Infusions

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I’m not the greatest of wine makers I can admit that, not that I’m not going to keep trying but there is something about the process that I always seem to get wrong. That’s perhaps why I love infusions, the alcohol part is done for you all you need to do is add flavor and drink it! Last autumn was a great season for wild fruits of all kinds so I took it as a chance to experiment with something other than Sloe Gin.

While out walking one day I came across a damson tree laden with fruit, I kicked myself as I must have walked past it dozens of times before without noticing. I did consider making jam but you can have too much jam but never enough booze, so I made damson vodka, after a few months of patience it turned into a beautiful thick rich comforting blanket of a drink, instantly better dare I say than Sloe Gin. Using vodka instead of gin allows the fruit to impart it’s own flavor rather than be masked by the taste of the alcohol. Needless to say it’s all gone now.

By now the bug had bitten so I was on the lookout for more fruits to experiment with. The second I made was Cherry Plum vodka, made in the same way as the Damson, this has a sharper flavor, a little more tart. A search on the internet gave me my next and I must say favorite infusion ever, Blackberry Whiskey, it’s smooth and comforting after a cold January walk with a real depth of flavor, that I insist that everyone tries.

Blackberry Whiskey

blackberries

sugar

bottle of whiskey

Take a large jar, fill it 2/3 of the way with blackberries, pour in half that amount of sugar then top up the rest of the jar with whiskey. Don’t use expensive whiskey that would be a crime. Shake the jar now and again to help dissolve the sugar, leave in a dark cupboard for at least 3 months, try and make it in time for Christmas but better still hide a bottle of it for a year.

Damson Vodka

1kg damsons

500g sugar

1 litre vodka
Put all the ingredients into a large Kilner jar, shake every so often to dissolve the sugar and bottle after 3 months. Some people prick each fruit but who has time for that I tend to squash them lightly with a potato masher in the jar before I add the vodka. Like most infusions it will be better after a year if you can wait that long. Don’t forget that when you have bottled it you can eat the fruit with cream or custard etc.

Cherry Plumb Vodka

Make in the same way as the Damson Vodka but try freezing the cherry plums first then letting them thaw before adding them to the jar, this breaks down the skins and removes the need for tedious pricking.

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