Foraged food – For flavours and gourmet ingredients you can’t find in the shop.
Foraged food provides high concentrations of nutrients, increased self reliance and exciting ingredients, unavailable anywhere else!
Here is the place you can find all manner of foraged food. As we go through the seasons, foragers have to shift focus. No popping down the hedgerow for hawthorn berries in March! This unwavering seasonality makes foraged food some of the best food you can find, prepare and serve.
For a taster, here are some of the foraged food I have been making recently…If you would like to taste some of these and a lot more, then book on to one of my upcoming foraging walks and courses.
Lacto-fermented 3-corner leek bulbs
Foraged food can be preserved through fermentation, as detailed in the short article on ramsons flower buds lacto-fermentation .
Here we are using a relative of ramsons, the schedule 9 invasive plant, three corner leek (Allium triquetrum), and the power of lacto fermentation, you can make an exceptional replacement for silverskin pickled onions. Not only that but you are helping to arrest the spread of a plant that will absolutely take over gardens given half a chance
The harvesting is quick, as they often grow on the surface of the soil, but if underground, you need only lightly fork under the decaying leaves during the dormant period of summer to get to your prize.
Preparing the bulbs can be a little time consuming, as can often be the case with wild foods, but the results are more than worth it . You will need to slice of the base plate, as you would on garlic cloves, and peel the outer protective skin off (this is easier the earlier in the summer you get them)
Once prepared, simply pack the bulbs into jars, add enough sea salt to create the right acidic conditions, label and leave for the lacto-bacillus to get to work on the sugars, and release their acetic acid
Ash key pickle. Ye olde foraged food
This delightful pickle is pretty simple to make and offers us olive -like textures in an infused pickled vinegar of your choosing.
Ash keys (are the fruits of the ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) have been picked and pickled for centuries. The ash is a relative of the olive, one of two plants we have native to our shores, the other being the inedible privet (Ligustrum vulgare). In Roger Phillips excellent book ‘Wild Food’, he mentions a recipe from tudor times.
The art in a good ash key pickle is foraging the keys before they get to old and lignified. If you have kept an eye on the ash flowers in spring, you will already know where the fruits are likely to be found.
They need to be green, and without the tell-tale swelling of the seed becoming visible. So visit from around mid May. I tend to do a bite test on raw keys to see if they are gone over, and I find it more reliable than simply trying to gauge with my eyes.
You can quickly pick ash keys, and within a day you could harvest enough to last about a year.
Ingredients: Enough ash keys to fill 2 x 1 litre kilner jars, bay leaves, sea salt, spices ( I like using cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, peppercorns) cider vinegar.
Put the ash keys into a pan and cover with water. Add a few grams of salt, and bring to the boil, simmer, then strain and repeat.
Take the keys and pack into the jars while warm, and let them cool.
Take the spices and place into a pan with 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar, and a dash of water. Pour over the cider vinegar, cover with a lid and bring to a simmer on the hob for 5-10 mins, then take off the heat and let it rest until cold.
Pour over the ash keys, put lid on and let it mature for as long as you can…3 months at least to develop good flavour.
The two pickles, ash key and 3-corner leek, went really well together, alongside fermented sea puslane and a host of other goodies cooked up at a wild food cafe I hosted a couple of years ago at a festival in Wales
Violet and mugwort infused vinegar:
This is a really easy thing to make, because all I have done is infused violet flowers (Viola sp) and some sprigs of new growth mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) into a white wine vinegar, then sweetened a little. The amount of violet flowers is up to you…I picked a couple hundred or so flowers, but the more you add the deeper the colour, and the stronger the ‘love heart sweet’ flavour.
Violets are bang in season in March, often found carpeting the woodland floor and other shady spots.
They are an evergreen plant and you will find their heart shaped leaves, overwintering when many plants are dormant. Even if the weather is cold and checking the growth of other plants, Violets will be found flowering away right on cue
So to make the vinegar, simply steep the plant material in the vinegar for 48 hrs or so, giving it a shake and stir every once in a while, and Voila, or is that Viola! Then simply strain, and sweeten to taste.
Alexanders and rhubarb Jam:
Agreat early season jam, and easily made, and if you have a fridge and dont intend it to hang around for long, it doesnt require pectin.
Simply harvest some pre-flowering stems of alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum), well before the flower buds are opening… if it’s in flower like this (below), you are well to late to enjoy this marvellous foraged food!
I use approx 1 kg each of rhubarb and alexanders.
Take the rhubarb and cover with brown sugar overnight to draw out the juices.
Cook it with half of the chopped alexanders stems and 700 grams (ish) of sugar.
Part cook the other half of alexanders, so they are ‘al dente’ and add to the reducing pot a couple of minutes before the end. This ensures that a) the first half of alexanders adds their fragrance to the jam, and b) the other half doesn’t break down and offer some texture to the finished product.
The finished jam should still be a little fluid, but not runny.
If not, then reduce it down a little longer until you get your required consistency.
Pour into sterilised jars. Simples!
As said, this is a ‘fridge jam’ due to the reduced sugar. But mine doesn’t ever hang around long enough to spoil!
You can taste these creations and more on my foraging walks and courses.
Japanese knotweed and beetroot relish.
This delightful and easy-to-make condiment using Fallopia japonica syn Polygonum cuspidatum, was recently published here with ingredients and method…
Hawthorn ketchup –
I love this simple and sensational sauce. A plant I have so much respect for, as one of the herbal remedies for the heart, this hawthorn sauce (Crataegus sp) surpassed all expectations when I first made it a few years ago. I adapted a recipe from ‘Pam the Jam’, out of one of the River Cottage books my friend has.
For something so simple as a hedgerow fruit cooked in vinegar plus a little water, with some herbs and spices (always assafoetida and a specific couple others for the full majesty) and then simply strained through a sieve or muslin, before blending with muscovado sugar, molasses and seasoning… this subtly sour and sweet, rich, fruity and fulsome haw concentrate will power up the taste and enjoyment factor on pretty much any food it comes into contact with!
The full recipe and method will be added, probably in the autumn! More information can be found on hawthorn in my foragers monograph.
Hogweed shoot pakora with hogweed chutney
Once tried, this simple-to-make snack or side turns everyone on to eating foraged food.
The blend of crispy gram flour and rice flour batter, a delicate blend of herbs spices and the underlying aromatics and tenderness of the hogweed ensures wide eyed appreciation of a plant that is widely used by other European cultures