Finding a positive in a looming, unpredictable situation is understandably difficult, but perhaps a way we can see light in these dispiriting times is to take notice of the nature around us, and remember that once again it is spring and new life is emerging.
With each spring, a plethora of new life transpires in nature. The fauna of new spring lambs, fluffy fledglings and spritely bunnies are bouncing into life. The colour shows of flora; the greens of new shoots, buds, trees and hedges; the uplifting yellows of primroses, daffodils, celandines, broom, gorse and dandelions. Look around to see the seasonal wild foods sprouting; wild garlic, young hawthorn leaves, goose grass and garlic mustard. What’s best is that these natural delights can be appreciated, and sustainably foraged, both in rural and urban environments wherever you are in the British Isles.
Now is the time to look out for robins that can be heard singing their hearts out from dawn till dusk to protect their territories, all types of corvid (not Covid) – the rooks, crows, jackdaws, magpies and ravens of the sky life – that can be seen meticulously building their nests up high in young ash copses, and new growth that can be seen on every trimmed bush and scaling tree around us.
It can also be a time where we think again about our immediate landscape, which we pass through everyday, perhaps without a second thought. For those who wish to learn a little more about its wild foods and create some simple dishes using them – using the wild foods that can all be found both in rural and urban environments – we have shared a few easy recipes. Many of the recipes can be frozen for longevity as well. Please, when you are foraging these wild foods make sure to be safe when picking, learn the laws of sustainable foraging and ask the landowners permission before picking.
SEASONAL SPRING RECIPES USING WILD FOODS
Wild Garlic Pesto Pasta (serves 4-6)
A Handful of wild garlic leaves (around 10 leaves),
200ml olive oil
60g any nuts, we like to use pine kernels or hazelnuts
A pinch of sea salt
1. Blend or finely chop all ingredients in a bowl.
2. Cook pasta for 1-2 minutes under stated cooking time to have that lovely biting texture.
3. Drain the pasta, leaving a little of the salted water in.
4. Then add the pesto into the bowl of pasta, and serve the pesto pasta with a little grated cheese.
You can freeze the pesto if you don’t use all of it at once.
Garlic Mustard & Wild Garlic Muffin Loaf (serves 4)
A handful of garlic mustard & wild garlic leaves (around 20 leaves) finely chopped
50g grated cheese
A pinch of salt
A pinch of chilli flakes
125g salted butter
350g self-raising flour
1. Mix the dry ingredients, and set aside.
2. Then in a separate saucepan, melt the butter and add the milk & egg to make a wet mixture.
3. Combine wet and dry mixtures into dough.
4. Pat down gently into loaf tin.
5. Bake from 20-25 minutes or till golden at 190C.
The muffin loaf can be frozen
Wild Foods 'Stock Cubes' (25-30 servings)
2 handfuls of any wild food, 20-30 leaves (e.g. wild garlic)
300ml olive oil
1. Blend both together in mixer.
2. Place small amounts of the oil/leaf mixture into holes of an ice cube tray and freeze.
This is a great recipe to add to any savoury cooking; just as you would garlic cloves, plop an ice cube amount of wild garlic mixture each time you fry something perhaps alongside onions, celery, and or carrots.
Freeze for several months
Hawthorn & Wild Garlic Salsa Verde (serves 4)
1 handful of young hawthorn leaves
1-2 handfuls of wild garlic leaves (around 10-20 leaves) finely chopped
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
180ml olive oil
50g of capers
3 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1. Blend all ingredients in mixer and serve with fish or meat.
Can be frozen for 1-2 months
Wild foods in urban and rural environments now:
Wild Garlic - use as you would garlic cloves, found in wetted tree canopies and waterways.
Gorse – use yellow petals in salads, found near footpaths, roadsides, verges, hills and riverbanks.
Dandelions – use young green leaves and yellow petals in salads, found near footpaths, pavements, roadsides, verges, field edges and parks.
Goose grass – steep in water for refreshing juice, found near footpaths, pavements, roadsides, verges, hedges and riverbanks.
Garlic mustard – use young green leaves in salad, found near footpaths, pavements, roadsides and verges.
Hawthorn leaves – use young green leaves in salad, found in hedges, fields, gardens, parks.
Nettles – use as blended in soup or as green vegetable (always boil before eating), found near footpaths, pavements and fields.
The New Life of Spring
Photographs & Words by Angus D. Birditt | @ourisles