Living On The Wild Side Of Food

As soon as spring comes upon us nature begins to deliver her abundance. But when thinking of wild foods most people tend to be reminded of Autumn and the wild fruit and mushroom harvest available then.

This is probably because many people are almost entirely ignorant of wild greens. The wild plants that can be harvested (often in your own back garden) and consumed.

Indeed, as soon as April turns into May edible wild plants spring into profusion. If you know what to look for then you can probably spot six edible species right in your own back garden. If you venture further afield, to a back lane, for example then with a little practice you will see thirty or more wild plants that are both edible and, more importantly, good to eat.

In fact there are well over a hundred common plants (many of them considered weeds) that you can collect and add to your own recipes. There are as many rarer plants again so that anyone with enough knowledge will be able to gather one wild plant or another all year round. Even in the depths of winter there are enough wild plants in abundance for you to be able to create a hedgerow salad.

Here I present two recipes designed around and incorporating wild spring greens.

Early Spring Salad With Creamy Lemon Dressing

600g of any wild salad greens, including shepherd's purse, young hawthorn leaves, dandelion leaves, garlic mustard, young ground elder leaves and any other wild greens that you've gathered?
360ml olive oil?
240ml water?
2 garlic cloves?
1 tsp fresh ginger?
1/2 small onion?juice of
1 lemon?
small handful of parsley or coriander?
1 tsp rosemary?
1 tsp turmeric?
1 tbsp miso?
100g any cooked root vegetables (such as potatoes, cassava, yams, common evening primrose root, dandelion root etc).

Begin by washing the greens. This is easiest done if you place them in a colander (in batches) before placing the colander in a bowl (make sure that the colander is taller than the bowl) then ryn cold water through the colander. This means that the water will flow through the colander and over the sides of the bowl, taking any dirt with it. But the greens can't escape.

Once washed, pat dry the greens in towels. Do this thoroughly, as salad dressing won't cling to wet greens. Chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Meanwhile, place all the liquid ingredients in the blender and mix until incorporated. Now add all the remaining ingredients (except the greens and root vegetables). Render to a smooth puree. Now add the root vegetables and blend to a smooth paste (this will thicken the dressing). Add just enough to achieve your desired consistency.

Toss the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.

Hedgerow Salad

sheep's sorrel leaves picked and coarsely chopped (as sorrel contains oxalic acid which is mildly toxic use sparingly or substitute with cultivated sorrel)?
Ramson leaves shredded (or use chives)?
chopped bedstraw?
young hawthorn leaves?
young dandelion leaves?
primrose flowers?
gorse flowers?
violet flowers?
a few violet leaves?
Hedge mustard (also known as Jack-by-the-hedge) leaves.?
A handful of hazelnuts, chopped (this would have been an excellent way of using-up any winter surplus) or you could use beech nuts.

Preparation is simply a case of washing the leaves and flowers, adding to a bowl and tossing to mix them thoroughly. Sprinkle with the hazelnuts and then serve.