Spring was traditionally the time people would load up on nutrients after the lean harsh winter times - so it's a great time for a forage to take advantage of the abundance, with some reliable stalwarts of the wild food world to be found in plentiful supply alongside some less common surprises.
After demonstrating how to pick and eat nettles without getting stung, last Saturday (4 May), expert forager Jesper Launder shared his wild garlic and nettle soup recipe and talked a little about the medicinal benefits of the ingredients (Jesper is a registered medical herbalist). Nettles are packed full of vitamins, minerals and useful phytochemicals, and can be 'managed' in a corner of your garden throughout spring and summer to provide nutrients both for you and for your plants. We also found Jack by the Hedge in abundance which makes a lovely salad leaf, and a number of other leafy greens that can be used raw or cooked in salads, pestos, wilted as a side or incorporated into risottos and stews.
It's the perfect time of year to pick dandelion flowers for making homemade wine, and Jesper shared his recipe (though sadly no samples were available!) along with ideas for other wild wines.
There were many more interesting discoveries and fascinating facts, too numerous for this blog, but the highlight for some was the discovery of some Pignut plants, and a demonstration of how to find and 'harvest' the elusive nut without damaging the surrounding plants - a lesson in sustainable foraging.
After two and a half hour's foraging, we took our loaded baskets to the lakeside in Chorlton Waterpark and cooked up a buttery St George's mushroom entree, leafy garlicky main with scrambled egg, and a creamy dessert made from Sweet Cicely and yoghurt. Foraged food tastes good outdoors, and, as I can testify after cooking up some of my finds later that evening, good indoors too!
Fancy a forage? See the CGF website for details of more upcoming wild food forays.
There are photos from our recent wild food trips on the CGF Facebook page.