No. 1 - November 2008
Welcome to the first edition of foraging TIMES which
it is hoped will be run on a monthly basis in the future by E-mail and will expand as time
goes on and include things like wild food recipes, recent snippets of research data, and the like.
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SPRING GROWTH of at least six edible wild greens has been upon us down here in Cornwall
since the first couple of weeks in September... and that's an advance on last year.
The first indication that things were 'ahead' was when the reedmace (Typha) in the
garden started to grow new shoots in September, then in October there appeared to be renewed
growth on the bladder campion (Silene vulgaris). The common mallow
(Malva sylvestris) had also done a second flourish of flowers after having produced
some really spindly growth which had been diseased.
In the 'Outback' the first major noticeable growth were new seedlings of annual goosegrass /
cleavers (Galium aparine) which appeared in the first couple of weeks. By the start
of October the first few leaves of navelwort (Umbilicus rupestris) were also
emerging. Normally I expect to see first growth of that edible in November. By the end of
October some navelwort specimens were already showing signs of mature leaf growth although
none have gone into flowering mode. The succulent young leaves make a quite good salad
addition for their texture and may also be stir-fried.
And then we have the ubiquitous primrose...
Last year a handful of specimens were in
flower by the end of October. Nothing yet on the flower front there but one or two plants
have started new leaf growth [although young primrose leaves and flowers are edible CAUTION
is the word as the primula family can produce marked allergenic responses in some people].
As for violets, three clumps had flowers on them in September, while the first shoots
of alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) were pushing through the ground in early
The main early highlight from my foraging point of view is the emergence of the
three-cornered leek (Allium triquetrum) a member of the garlic family with
leaves that look a bit like grass and sporting bell shaped white flowers when it blooms.
3CL, as I call it, is one of my favourite spring nibbles and can be used in salads or cooked.
Down here it also precedes the plant which everyone calls wild garlic - ramsons -
(Allium ursinum) by several weeks. It will be interesting to see how the next months
develop - particularly if there's a hard winter!
All the plants mentioned have edible parts but be sure you know which parts.
Lot's more information on foraging for edible wild greens via the main website:
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Pictures and text Copyright © 2008, Marcus Harrison.
Early Alexanders leaves
THE GOLDEN RULE...
If you cannot identify a wild plant with 100% certainty as being one of the edible species
NEVER use it as food. If you have the slightest hesitation over a plant's identity be
safe and MOVE ON. Similarly, if you cannot remember which part of the plant is used leave it alone.
Check your personal tolerance to ANY new edible wild plant before consuming in quantity.
If you have a medical condition or are taking medication then you should seek professional medical advice before consuming edible wild plants as they may contain constituents that impair or amplify that medication.
Be 'aware' of the environment that you are gathering from.
Is there possible contamination from effluent, car exhaust emissions, sprays, dogs and so on?
NEVER consume foliage which is dead or dying, or that which is discoloured (that COULD be just from bad
soil nutrients it could also be an indicator of weedkillers at work!).