Always be vigilant when foraging!

Always be vigilant when foraging!

This is another example of how an edible species can grow side by side with a toxic species.

This is Wild Garlic – Allium ursinum – and growing amongst it is Lords n Ladies/Cuckoo Pint/Arum Lily/Jack in the Pulpit (it goes by many names) – Arum maculatum – also highlighting the importance of Latin names as there are species of edible plant known colloquially as ‘Jack by the Hedge’ – Alliaria petiolata and ‘Cuckoo flower’ – Cardamine pratentis. Localised namings could cause confusion! Anyway, back to the photo, this is why grabbing handfuls of plants is not a professional – or safe – approach. When you look at the second photo, you can clearly see the difference, and be able to safely identify. Not so simple when snatching and being in a rush. Foraging should be a nice, calm and rewarding activity.

Wild garlic.

Arum maculatum (left), and Allium ursinum (right)

Spot the difference…..

Spot the difference…..

These were both growing side by side. One is arguably the most toxic plant you’re likely to find……

and the other is edible. They’re both from the same family so, how do you tell? It’s not witchcraft and this is something you can easily learn!  Scroll down for the answer……

Left – Hemlock, one of the most poisonous plants known to man! Right – cow parsley.

Leftovers

Leftovers

This is a nice reminder that we share our wild food resources with the other creatures who live in the countryside.

The remains of this Signal Crayfish are the leftovers from an Otters meal. I’m a little disappointed she wasted the claw meat, though, because that’s the best bit!

It’s great fun to learn about what’s happening in the countryside by finding the signs that tell a story.

Wild carrot

Wild carrot

Learning a distinguishing feature of the Wild Carrot via the sense of smell.

It was an absolute joy to hear the description, “It smells like lemon drizzle!” because the crushed seeds certainly do have a distinct citrus aroma!

Black Mustard

Black Mustard

A fantastic wild edible – Black Mustard (Brassica nigra)

It packs a real punch in much the same way that wasabi does, and one of my favourite ways to utilise it is to crisp up the leaves in a frying pan with a little oil. It makes an excellent accompaniment to a seafood dish.

Medicinally, it’s pretty good for coughs and colds too.

Pignuts

Pignuts

Another wild edible has just started to poke through amongst the bluebells – The Pignut: Distinguishable by its feathery leaves, care must be taken not to confuse with other members of the same family i.e. Hemlock, although if you saw the two side by side, the differences are apparent.

The part of this plant you’re looking for is the tuber, and it can be somewhat labour intensive to dig for them but, in my opinion, quite worth the while. I’ve always had a penchant for water chestnuts (like the ones you get in a Chinese takeaway) and these are not dissimilar. Digging requires care as you need to follow the stem downwards, being careful not to break it. The reason for this is because they’re sneaky buggers and don’t go directly downwards – the shoot coming out from the tuber heads outwards before heading upwards at 90 degrees to the surface. Whether this is a simple defence mechanism, I don’t know. The skin of this dark nugget can easily be rubbed off with a thumbnail to reveal a bright white, nutritious morsel. Eaten raw or as part of a stir fry, they’re rather moreish.