(Written April 2020)
In the past few weeks of social isolation and lockdown, meals have become one of the most exciting parts of the day. However, whilst isolating we’ve got a bit low on fruit and veg, so have had to get creative with wild garlic in most meals, picked whilst on our daily walks. In this blog, I’m going to share some really easy things to forage and cook wherever you are.
Wild garlic can be found in woodlands, fields and hedgerows. It’s best to pick the bright green leaves just before the white flowers appear, so late March and early April, though you can eat the flowers too. Make sure you pick any away from paths to avoid dog bathroom areas, and away from busy roads to avoid pollution. Only pick what you need and pick just a few leaves from each plant. Wash thoroughly before cooking with.
Lentil, bean and wild garlic stew – this is a really one we’ve done with two tins of tomato, half a pack of lentils and a tin of baked beans! Start with frying up an onion, add in the lentils and stir around with the onions for a minute or so, then add the tinned tomatoes and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes, add the baked beans and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the wild garlic just before serving to wilt slightly. Add salt, pepper, turmeric and chilli flakes to taste.
Wild garlic bread – this is a really easy one, finely chop the wild garlic, stir it into some melted butter with a pinch of sea salt. Spread over some flatbread, put in the oven for 10 minutes or so and you’ve got garlic bread to rival that of Pizza Express! Even better if you make your own flatbreads, but seeing as all the shops have run out of flour may have to be one for later.
This is a great food to forage if you live in a city or town, as can easily be found in parks and other wild spaces (take care not to pick from peoples’ gardens or other private land!). Again, pick sparingly and only what you need, and away from path edges and roads.
Dandelion iced tea – we tried this one this evening, after finding loads in the fields and woods nearby. Gather a handful of dandelion flowers, rinse them in cold water thoroughly. Place into a large kilner jar or other container. Add water just off the boil, a litre or two will do. Add a squeeze of lime or lemon. Add one or two tablespoons of honey, or another sweetener if preferred. Wait until the jar cools to room temperature then chill in the fridge. Strain the tea through a tea strainer or sieve if you want to, or leave the flowers in and serve with ice. A good one for warmer days.
This is a tricky one to forage during lockdown if you don’t live within walking distance of the beach, so check out www.cornishseaweed.co.uk or http://www.theseaweedshack.co.uk to buy some from independent sustainable businesses in the UK. When we get back to the beach again, you can find dulse attached to rocks when the tide is out, it is a tough flat reddish coloured seaweed. When to pick – add from book. Only pick what you need again sparingly, and chop with scissors leaving the holdfast on the rocks (holdfast is the ‘root’ of the seaweed that attaches it to the rock). Make sure you wash really thoroughly. (Painting below of dulse as I couldn’t get to the beach).
Dulse with eggs – Dulse is said to have a strong ‘umami’ taste, which makes it go really well with eggs. So, simply chop up your dulse finely, stir into eggs and whisk. Add sea salt and black pepper and make scrambled eggs on toast with dulse!
This is another seaweed that you can look for when we get back to the beach, though you may want to wear a wetsuit for this one as it grows pretty deeply. I’ll post some more seaweed foraging tips post-lockdown… Otherwise, you can again buy from the online shops above.
Sugar kelp sauerkraut – For those of you interested in fermented foods, seaweed is a great addition to further boost your nutrition. Simply chop finely a load of red or white cabbage, add some finely chopped kelp, add a tablespoon of sea salt and massage together in a large mixing bowl. Add a few pinches of black pepper. Put into a kilner jar or other large container, add a cabbage leaf on top to press it down, put the lid on loosely and put in a cool dark place e.g. a cupboard. Every day open the lid to release some of the gases that have formed, it’s ready to eat after 5 days. Is great on the side of a salad or in a cheese and chutney sandwich. Transfer to smaller jars if preferred and store in the fridge, it lasts for up to 6 months!
One word of caution, sugar kelp is high in iodine, so eat in moderate quantities.