Enjoy the delicious wild spring greens that are around at the moment. it is absolutely the best time of year for them so here are some common, easily identifiable edibles that will add variety, taste and goodness to your everyday recipes.
Foraging should be fun. A relaxing walk to collect a few bits and pieces to add to your meal, but we have heard of people so keen to collect a particular plant that they get their identification wrong… sometimes with devastating consequences!
To avoid this forage with an open mind, see what’s around and just collect the plants that you are sure you recognise.
Stinging Nettle: Found on nitrogen rich ground often near habitation. To be certain of your identification – see if it stings! Collect just the top four leaves from each stem and cook for 3 minutes in your chosen recipe.
Cleavers: Commonly found in hedge bottoms. To be sure of your identification check that it sticks well to your woolly jumper or fleece. Cut off the top 12cm and snip into small pieces before cooking for 2 minutes.
Wild Garlic: Found in damp wooded valleys or on hedge banks. If it looks like the picture and smells strongly of garlic when crushed then you have it. You can use the leaves, stems and flowers raw or cooked.
Spear Thistle: Common on waste ground, footpaths, roadsides etc. Use the leaf rib or young stems of the thistle to add crunch to a dish. Remove all prickles before eating and serve raw or cooked.
Ground Elder: This plant is often found in or around habitation, it likes to grow in partial shade and can form large patches. The young leaves grow straight out of the ground on a stem that does not branch. The leaf is made up of three parts as in the picture. The leaf smells rather like parsley when crushed. Cook for 2-3 mins in a little water then drain and puree or add to your dish shortly before the end of the cooking time.
Always be sure of your identification before you eat any wild plants.
Wild Greens Risotto serves 6
- 3 Shallots, peeled and chopped finely
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 500g Arborio risotto rice
- 1.5 -2ltr vegetable stock (approx)
- Half a carrier bag of mixed wild greens
- Salt and Pepper
- 200g butter
- 100g Parmesan cheese grated
Wash, prepare, and chop your greens. Cook in a little water for 2-3 minutes then puree in batches. You may want to leave any thistles in short pieces to give crunch.
Bring the vegetable stock to the boil and keep it on a low simmer. In a large pan gently cook the shallots in the olive oil until it is soft. Add the risotto rice and stir well, keep the pan on a medium/low heat and add a ladle full of stock, stir gently until it has been absorbed by the rice. Keep adding the stock a ladle full at a time, each time stirring until absorbed. After about 20 minutes the rice will be nearly cooked through, keep a close eye on it at this point and when it is very nearly cooked add the pureed greens, continue cooking and stirring for 3-4 minutes. Now remove the pan from the heat add the parmesan cheese, butter, salt and pepper and stir. Put a lid on the pan and leave it off the heat for the flavours to develop.
Serve on its own with just a drizzle of olive oil or with smoked fish or crispy bacon.
Course photos from 19th April 2014 and 23rd April 2014 “One day foraging” courses.