Foraged ribwort plantain and blackberry crumble

It’s getting towards my favourite time of the foraging year – harvest! Just like an allotment, the fruits of nature’s labour are nearly ready to go out and pick.

Last week end after a good bout of sunshine, the blackberries had started to ripen. Big, juicy ones this year because of the good watering they’ve had. It wasn’t long before we’d got a basket full – enough to make jam and a crumble with.

We managed to find a few wild plums, but only enough to eat as a snack along the way. Sweet and sour all at the same time, just gorgeous!

Lovely hedgerow snack!

Plantain is readily available at this time of the year. When I was small, I liked to wind the stem around the more common Ribwort Plantain and pop the seed heads off to see who could get theirs to go the furthest!

Ribwort Plantain

The longer stems of the Greater Plantain weren’t so entertaining, but they hold the most seeds, so they were the ones that I used to pick to munch along the way!

Greater Plantain

It’s either of these plants that I turn to when I get stung rather than dock. Just peel a few of the ribs on the leaf down to extract some of the juice and rub it straight onto the sting. The pain and itching is gone before you count to 10. It’s a very easily recognised plant with prominent ribs running down the back of the leaves.

Look for the long ribs down the back of the leaves of the ribwort family to identify it clearly.

The leaves have been used for centuries to combat infection and aid healing. The most common way of using the leaves was as a ‘spit poultice’ which is exactly what it sounds like – take a leaf and chew it until it’s completely broken down before putting it directly on the wound! I’ve never tried this, but you never know – this information may come in handy one day!

The young leaves can be cooked or used in salads, but today I was looking for the seed heads. The seeds are packed full of nutrients, essential oils and vitamins and are lovely eaten straight from the stem as a snack. If you can’t find any seeds on the stem, it may be that the birds have beaten you to it and it’s obviously important that you leave some for them!

I wanted to gather enough seeds to roast and grind to add to the flour that I was making the blackberry crumble with. They’re also really yummy just added raw or toasted into biscuits or trail bars, or just thrown onto salads.

Getting them off the stalks is quite tedious work, but it’s worth it when you taste the nutty difference that it makes to the crumble.

Strip the stems and then place on a metal tray.

Ribwort seeds stripped from the stems

Bake in a hot oven for a few minutes and let the kitchen fill with their gorgeous peachy, biscuity smell. Keep an eye on them and don’t let them burn.

Seeds golden from their toasting in the oven

Empty them into a pestle and mortar and grind up.

Finely ground in a pestle and mortar

When making your crumble topping, just rub the butter into the flour and then stir in the ground seeds when you add the sugar. Any crumble recipe will do, just make sure that you take into account the weight of your ground seeds when weighing out your regular flour.

The jam made a bit extra than the three jars I’d got ready for it, so I stirred the still runny jam into the blackberries before I baked the crumble.

The crumble was nutty and golden from the ribwort, sweet and tangy from the juicy blackberries – I think I’m going to love autumn this year!