Five favourite forages

Five favourite forages

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Summer is coming to a close and Autumn is approaching… possibly not what you want to hear at the end of a wet and chilly August in Wales but you never know maybe September will bring us some unexpected sunshine! I love the Autumn months as they bring beautiful bright and earthy colours to our city green spaces and the opportunity for some tasty foraging.

On Saturday 12th September we have a wild food forage taking place in Bute Park. This is a family friendly workshop and children can join us for free but you must pre book places. You’ll learn how to forage safely, how to identify edible plants and how to use your wild harvest. You can book your place HERE.

Our tutor Michele Fitzsimmons is a permaculture designer and educator and experienced forager. She tells us about her five favourite forages …

1.SORREL

Sorrel has a unique flavour lying somewhere between a granny smith apple and the skin of a ripe plum. It’s the oxalic acid which gives Sorrel this special sour taste which takes over your mouth in a really startling and delightful way. Sorrel is used in a variety of ways in throughout the world – from northern Nigeria where it is known as ‘sure’ (pronounced suuray) to Hungary where its leaves are known as ‘sóska’; each culture creates their own unique dishes with this wonderful wild plant. I use it to make a sour soup and it’s also great in salads along with other wild leaves.

 

2.HAZELNUTS

If you can manage to compete with the exotic and destructive grey squirrel and gather some hazelnuts in autumn there is a whole range of uses for them. Hazelnuts are a healthy non meat protein which last in their shells for 12 – 18 months in a cool room– this makes hazelnut an extremely eco-friendly form of protein as it needs no electricity to store it and almost no energy to create it in the first place. It can be used in savoury dishes like a nutloaf, its wonderful dry roasted and eaten with salads and it can used in a variety of ways in desserts.

3.BLACKBERRIES

Blackberries are the most commonly foraged wild food. They are everywhere in abundance and there are a number of delicious ways of using them. Because they are a soft fruit it’s also possible to freeze them until you have a large quantity and then when you have time you can spend a day creating all sorts of wonderful dishes including jams, preserves and cordials. Blackberries also make a rich flavoursome wine. Blackberries are notable for their high nutritional contents of dietary fibre, vitamin C, and vitamin K.  One cup of blackberries contains half the daily recommended dose of vitamin C. Blackberries contain numerous large seeds which contain oil rich in omega-3 and linoleic acid as well as protein.

4.HAIRY BITTER CRESS

Hairy Bitter Cress is a small leaved plant belonging to the brassica family which is abundant in early spring. The seeds when ripe will burst explosively when touched sending the seeds flying far from the parent plant. Seeds germinate again in Autumn and the tiny plants are a winter annual (green throughout the winter months). Because of this plants like Hairy Bitter Cress were valued for providing much needed minerals and vitamins in months when there were limited options. It has a peppery rocket like flavour and is great with other wild leaves in a salad.

 

5.ELDERBERRIES

Elderberries have a strong rich flavour which can be added in small quantities to a mix of other soft fruit. In late spring they produce an abundance of white flowers which are enjoyed by butterflies and which can be used to make elderflower champagne, a delicious refreshing summer drink. In autumn the berries can be used to make elderberry wine. The rotting wood of elder plays host to a pleasant tasting edible fungi called Wood Ear. The Elder tree was supposed to ward off evil influences and give protection from witches, while other beliefs say that witches often congregate under the plant, especially when it is full of fruit. If an elder tree was cut down, a spirit known as the Elder Mother would be released and take her revenge. The tree could only safely be cut while chanting a rhyme to the Elder Mother! – you have been warned!

You can find out more about Michele and her work here: www.ediblelandscaping.co.uk

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