Now Spring is here nature is bouncing into life again, and it’s time for everyone to get outside again and enjoy the sun – or at least the slightly warmer drizzle. But while we’re out enjoying the weather it’s always nice to keep an eye on the plants we pass – there’s often a free and very tasty meal in the offing. Here’s a quick rundown of 4 super-tasty, entirely natural foods to be harvested in early Spring.
The real king of the crop in early spring, you’ll find this carpeting deciduous woodland floors, often in the company of Bluebells for a really beautiful scene. Southern sandstone climbers at Harrisons Rocks will be familiar with it. Also known as Bear’s Garlic (because wild bears like it, not a euphemism) it makes a fantastic soup (this Riverford recipe is a good one), salad leaf or an ingredient in pesto. Simply pick a few leaves for use immediately, it doesn’t keep well. To tell it apart from similar poisonous leaves, go by the strong garlic smell.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Pretty common across the UK, you’ll find these everywhere growing as a weed. They give off a milky sap when cut, so wear gloves to avoid sticky hands. You can use the young spring leaves in salads (the younger the less bitter they’ll be) to give a Chicory-like flavour, and the flower buds can be lightly battered and fried to make fritters. If you’re feeling particularly forager-y, then the roots of Dandelions can be dug up, cleaned and dried then roasted to make a caffeine coffee substitute.
Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)
As with Dandelions, you’ll find these jagged, heart-shaped leaved plants growing pretty much everywhere as a weed. Pick the top few tender leaves (with gloves) until about June, and wilt them in boiling water or pan fry quickly to get a spinach-style leaf (albeit less tasty) you can add to dishes in the same way. This chopped into a puree give you the base for soup, by following a method like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s nettle soup, or the tips can also be dunked straight into just-below boiling water to make nettle tea.
Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
Bit left field this, but the Primrose is a handy food-flower, although foraging wild primroses should be kept to a minimum. The flowers and leaves make great salad additions, and the leaves can be pan-fried too.
What’s your favourite foraged food or recipe? Tweet us and let us know!