One of the most exciting things about Spring is the opportunities it brings for foraging wild food. After a dormant winter, Spring brings a bounty of edible forgeable foods. Whether you live in the countryside or in an urban environment, wild food is all around. If you're new to foraging, wild leaves are a great place to start.
Are you ready to get out there? Here are 4 wild leaves that are readily available, and recipe suggestions for how to use them:
Nettles are hugely versatile, and right now they're at their seasonal best: young, tender and ripe for picking. You won't want to add them raw to a salad as, yes, they do sting. But you can add a small handful of fresh nutritious nettles to smoothies without harm. Cooked nettles can replace spinach in many recipes, and they make a very good soup. To harvest your nettles, wear rubber gloves and only pick the tender new leaves. Like spinach, nettles reduce down dramatically when cooked so pick a carrier bag full for 4-6 servings. When you get them home, spread them out on a tray and as they wilt, they will lose their sting.
These nutritious leaves have a bitter action that stimulates digestion and liver function. Sometimes they are blanched by covering with a flowerpot to reduce the bitterness. The leaves make excellent salad, and you can use them in place of chicory in many recipes including my fave e cicoria. The petals are also delightful in jams, cookies, and sprinkled as decoration in spring dishes.
Wild garlic, also known as ramsons, grows in woods or damp shaded banks. There can be little risk of mistaking it as the leaves smell richly of garlic. Be sure to pick the garlic leaves when they are young and tender. Its flowers are white and star-like in clusters and make a striking addition to salads. The leaves are delicious in soups or folded into an omelette.
Sheep sorrel (on the right side of the hat!) is one of several wild sorrels you can find around the UK. They produce fresh leaves in the spring and in June/July send up a 30-45 cms high narrow flowering spike with tiny rust-coloured flowers above the grass meadow they inhabit. The leaves have a wonderful sharp acidic tang. Add sorrel to salads, frittatas, or sauces.
NOTE: Most edible wild plants that are worth the trouble of harvesting are easy to identify and difficult to confuse with harmful plants. But be safe. NEVER pick a plant if you are unsure of its identity or which part is safe to eat. If you want to gain foraging confidence, do keep an eye out for our foraging classes with the ever-entertaining Christopher Robbins, check the website or sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date!
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