By guest blogger VICKY HOWELL
On Sunday 28 April, a group of foragers gathered at the entrance to the Chorlton Ees Nature Reserve, ready to set out on our Spring Wild Food Extravaganza. We were led by the ever-enthusiastic and knowledgeable Jesper Launder, who only made it a few feet into the park before spotting our first discovery of the day – cow parsley. This led to our first important lesson – how to tell the difference between the harmless cow parsley and the potentially deadly hemlock – a key piece of information for any forager. In the same area we also identified and tasted cleavers (also known as ‘sticky willy’), three-cornered leeks and nettles, the tips of which can be used to make a delicious soup.
We ventured further into the park and came across white dead nettle, which looks similar to stinging nettles but without the sting. The small white flowers can be eaten and taste like honeydew melons. We also came across comfrey, garlic mustard (also known as Jack-by-the-hedge), hairy bittercress, ground elder and oilseed rape, as well as a number of rings of St George’s mushrooms, which have grown late this year due to the cold and dry weather. Apparently a bit of rain will get things moving, so by mid-May there should be plenty to be found! In the meadow we came across a horseradish plant, which isn’t much to look at on the surface but the roots extend up to two feet below ground. Everybody got to sample a very very small piece; a little goes a long way with horseradish.
As we walked we came across a few plants which can be used to make wine, including dandelions and Himalayan balsam flowers, and Jesper gave us some ideas for how to brew our own at home. It may take a good few months, but sounds well worth the effort!
Once we had a full basket, we made our way back to Chorlton Green, where Jesper cooked up a spring green omelette with three-cornered leeks, nettles and comfrey, as well as some mushrooms fried in butter. Simple but delicious, and the foragers went home with full stomachs and lots of ideas!
Fancy foraging? We've just put up the details of more upcoming wild food forays on the CGF website.