So, April brought our fourth “wild food from the park” opportunity. March had offered us an improvement in the diversity of our “park-based” diet, with the appearance of nettles, but April, oh April was a joy – buds burst, leaves unfurled, flowers flowered and the sun, the weeks of wonderful hot sunshine warmed up the vegetation and made it smell all green! We were stuck for choice about what to make from all the newly-appeared edible plants, so we made it all! And, joy of joys, in April, following a hunch about the likely location of some suitable habitat, we tracked down a big patch of ramsons or wild garlic growing in a secret, secluded and difficult-to-reach corner of the Park.
First up, in early May, we made some nettle and potato soup. We based it on Roger Phillip’s recipe from his “Wild Food” book. Here are our raw ingredients:
People keep asking me if I’m worried about eating wild leaves that “dogs could have peed on” – as if the vegetables they buy in supermarkets don’t grow in fields, exposed to the unobserved attentions of wildlife. So, here, for the benefit of those folk, is a picture of the nettles being washed – yes, we do wash everything first!
The onions were chopped and fried in Scottish Borders rapeseed oil, the potatoes chopped and added, then the nettles with home-made chicken stock, all simmered gently:
|Wild garlic butter|
A week or so later, yet more edible plant species had popped up in the Park. Our first really ambitious attempt of the year was a wild Spring greens soufflé, based on a recipe in the book “Seaweed and eat it” by Fiona Houston and Xa Milne. This was also the first soufflé I have ever made (real men do eat soufflé, you know!). We picked a range of edible plants: nettles, white dead nettles (Lamium album), cleavers, ground elder, dandelion and chickweed. From the following photo, you can see that the nettles and ground elder formed the bulk of the veggies.
|Chicken, rice and wild leaf salad, with wood sorrell garnish|
Another delicious wild food combo! The soufflé was dense, very green and actually tasted like it was based around interesting-tasting spinach.
We’ve eaten it a couple of time on pasta and it is much more interesting than boring old shop-bought basil pesto. It is preserved in the fridge, submerged under olive oil in its jar.