I love this time of the year (when it’s not raining!). Go out for a walk and everything is bursting into life.
Foraging is in my blood, my Dad’s grandmother had Romany gypsy roots and taught him about the edible things that were safe to eat when they went for walks. My Dad passed that on to me and I love the walks I have with my own children which enable me to give them a taste of ‘living off the land’.
We went out and about today to try and gather some very simple wild food for us to enjoy when we got home (with lots of wayside snacks along the way!)
We found a huge bank of wild garlic which we started to gather, along with our first snacks to see us along the rest of our adventure.
The smell of wild garlic is really pungent and you’d think that the leaves would taste really strongly of garlic. You’d be wrong – it’s a very mild taste. A cross between spinach and chives which you can add wherever you’d add these well known herbs would be used. Great in omelettes, quiche, pesto, dressings etc.
Wild garlic flowers are the thing that I like best about this time of the year. They are delicious! Each little white flower is a concentrated tiny bomb of garlic flavour. They taste like a cross between a fresh very sweet pea and garlic. They’re much stronger than the leaves and are quite hot. If you like watercress – you’ll love the lovely white flowers of wild garlic. Good to munch as you walk along.
The new tender leaves of the hawthorne were shiny next to the buds that had just started to form. Both the leaves and the buds are a lovely snack and part of our salad. The older leaves aren’t so good (they just taste of ‘green’). The buds have an astringent quality to them, the same as the berries when they appear.
Next we found some Jack by the Hedge.
This is a useful addition to a salad as the leaves bulk out the other things that you might have. It’s supposed to have a ‘garlicky’ taste, but it’s not as overtly garlic as you may think. You may pick up a hint of garlic in some of the younger leaves, but other than that it’s pretty much the same as raw spinach but a bit sweeter. The flowers on the other hand have a much punchier flavour and are quite spicy. The seed pods when they form are a great wayside snack and do have a garlic taste.
Everyone knows about Goose grass (or Cleavers and it’s also known). It’s the thing that children throw at each other because it sticks to clothing. It’s covered in tiny hairs which cause it to ‘stick’ onto anything that it touches which means that the older growth is difficult to eat raw and can get stuck in your throat, so it’s best avoided. It can be cooked as spinach which makes the hairs disappear. But if you want to eat it in a salad, just choose the very top new growth, it has a lovely fresh pea taste which is ideal in salads. I’ve heard that you can dry and grind the seeds which make a kind of coffee, but I’ve never tried that myself.
We stumbled upon lots and lots of wonderful Wood Sorrel which is a magical find and normally only happens every so often to me. Today we saw it everywhere!
It has a zingy lemon flavour which makes it a wonderful addition to salad or just as a garnish to fish or chicken. It’s a lot like sherbet and the flavour becomes apparent after giving it a good chew – you won’t notice anything if you give a couple of chews and then swallow! It’s a very ‘trendy’ wild food and something that you would definitely find it on the menu at the best Michelin starred restaurants. You should be careful not to take the whole plant. Just take what you need and leave the rest for another day. It doesn’t transfer well to other soil and it’s a shame to move it somewhere else when it’s obviously so happy where it is.
We headed home to feast on our bounty, discussing what to do with it all on the journey. We came up with Wild Garlic scones with cheese. We happened to have some feta that needed using up and the pairing was genius!
Wild Garlic Scones with Feta
In a food processor (or large bowl) add 150g plain flour and 50g wholemeal flour (or any combination of the two, making up 200g), 2 tsp mustard powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar and 2tsp baking powder.
Add 50g soft butter and whizz until it disappears or rub in. If using a food processor, empty the whizzed mixture into a large bowl.
Chop 150 – 200g cheese (your choice, I used 120g feta and 50g strong cheddar) cut into 1cm cubes. Add the cheese to the large bowl and stir around.
Add around 10-15 leaves of wild garlic (washed, dried and cut into strips) to the bowl and stir around. You can add more wild garlic if you want to, but don’t overdo it. I also added the flowers from around 5 stems, just to intensify the garlic flavour.
In a jug/mug/bowl whisk 1 large egg and 2tblsp plain yogurt and stir into the dry mixture. You need to make a slightly sticky dough so you may need to use upto another 2 tbslp plain yogurt. Add it 1 tblsp at a time so that the dough doesn’t get too wet.
Tip out onto a well floured surface and roll out to about 2-3 cm thick.
Cut into rounds with a glass or cutter, or pat the dough into circles if you prefer. The dough will make around 8-12 depending on the size of cutter.
Bake in a hot oven 210C or 190C fan, Gas 7 for around 10-15 minutes or until golden.
The only thing left to do is to assemble the salad, making sure to add lots of the lovely white wild garlic flowers for extra punch! A drizzle of olive oil and your favourite vinegar (we used some dandelion vinegar made a couple of weeks ago!) and you’re in heaven!