There are so many free foods during spring that I want to introduce three of the most accessible and common ones. And here’s the challenge, if you have never foraged before, pick one and use it this month of May.

wild garlicWild Garlic: This is my favourite and the unmistakable garlic smell makes me think of Cornish holidays and woodland walks. Look for it in damp woods with its broad, spear-like leaves and white star-like flowers in a rounded umbel. It starts popping up in March and in April to June it is in flower. You can eat the leaves and the flowers, just chop them up and add to omelettes, risottos and salads or my favourite – wild garlic pesto. Click on this link for the wild garlic pesto recipe.

jackbyhedgeJack-by-the-hedge: This is a very unassuming little hedgeside plant which can be mistaken for a weed but it is perfect if you like garlic in moderation. It can grow up to 70cm in height and its leaves are bright green and slightly toothed. During April to June it has small white flowers. I like to eat it with cheese sandwiches or roughly chopped on a frittata. You can also throw it into a salad.

nettlesNettles: Easy to identify and very prickly! I love eating them as I can take revenge on all the times they have stung me. Wear gloves to pick them and to wash them and eat them early in the season as after June they don’t taste so good. Before cooking them, remove the rougher stems and then make nettle soup.

Nettle Soup from Hedgerow Harvest

  • 1/2 carrier bag of nettles – tops or young leaves
  • 2oz butter
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 1 crushed clove or garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 pints of good stock – vegetable or chicken
  • 2 medium chopped potatoes
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons of cream or crème fraîche
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:
Wash the leaves thoroughly.
Melt the butter in a pan and sweat the chopped onion and garlic until soft but not brown (approx 10 minutes).
Add stock, potatoes and all leaves.
Bring to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are cooked.
Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and add the cream.
Put the mixture into the blender and blitz it.
Return to pan, reheat and serve.
Garnish with a swirl of cream and chopped herbs e.g. parsley or chives.

Let me know which green you tried this month. And if you are inspired, I can highly recommend the Hedgerow Harvest courses.

Please remember never to take plants from private gardens or communally owned areas and just take a few from woodlands. Never pick something you can’t identify and don’t pick wild foods from hedgerows near heavy traffic or if agricultural sprays have been applied to fields. It is sensible not to pick low-growing leaves along paths popular with dog walkers!

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