People are always asking me to do workshops on wild foods and foraging. I have done them and incorporate them into my workshops as much as possible, but really, it is the simplest thing that anyone can start to do which requires very little basic knowledge to begin with. Once you can spot a few wild edible plants in your garden, hedgerows and seashores, you will begin to ‘tune in’ to more and more and realise that there is free food growing all around us!
Now is the time for nettles, wild garlic, chickweed, cleavers, garlic mustard and wild herbs such as thyme. These all grow abundantly all over the Europe. All you need is a basic wild foods book, a pair of gloves and a bag, and you will almost certainly fill your bag with green goodies in an afternoon. Start by checking your garden if you have one. Is there a stray nettle patch which you have been avoiding the whole time? Or a bramble bush which climbs up the fence? Ground Ivy and chickweeds can be a nuisance to gardeners, but when you start to realize that you can eat your ‘weeds’ and that they are one of the most nutritious foods in your garden, you can grown to love them!
I am so excited to see the first shoots of garlic mustard, purslane, dandelions and sorrel poking through the ground. These super leaves are natures way of telling us to add more cleansing foods as the days grow lighter and longer, each one providing us with a different intense flavour to make a delicious green salad. A dish made of completely foraged foods can be not only tasty but free and satisfying!
Wild spring greens salad
A selection of Dandelion leaves, wild purslane (claytonia), wood sorrel, garlic mustard, ground elder, chickweed, fat hen…
Wash and select leaves and place in a large bowl or serving dish. If you want to add some seasonal cultivated salad greens such as spinach or chard, than you can add these too.
To dress up your salad, blend up the following dressing:
Hemp, Orange & Ginger dressing
3 tbsp Hempseeds
1 Blood orange, peeled and pipped
1 ‘’ Fresh ginger
1 Clove garlic
3 tbsp Olive or rapeseed oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 pinch salt
You can also try adding some sliced stored pear, walnuts, wild-garlic pesto, lovely European blood orange slices, marinaded seeds, sprouted seeds or some home made sauerkraut to your salad.
Here are some of the wild greens that are starting to appear in my wild garden right now:
Dandelion- An easy one to spot! Leaves range from small light green and smooth to dark green with purple veins and jagged edges. The leaves are very bitter but add a strong flavour to salads and are excellent for kidney problems and a strong detoxifier.
Wild Garlic- found in abundance in damp woodlands, these garlic flavoured green leaves are fabulous added to salads. Also try adding chopped to butters, dips, tomato sauces or in sandwiches.
Fat hen – another common plant in gardens and wastelands. Tall stems with diamond shaped green leaves. Fat hen is a powerhouse of nutrients, containing more protein and iron than spinach, and more vitamin B1 and calcium than cabbage.
Wood sorrel- A pretty tiny lime green plant with a white flower on a fine stem. Tastes very tart and citrus like. A few leaves in a salad make a big impact!
Wild Pursulane- Also known as Claytonia, a very tasty addition to salads with its juicy mild leaves. Its stems trail and produce small green leaves with a small white flower appearing out of the centre of each leaf from around April to June.
Garlic Mustard – Tall with bright green leaves and small white flowers. You’ll see it everywhere in hedgerows, gardens and woods
Ground elder- a pest for many a gardener, instead of fighting against this invasive weed, try eating it! Its mild flavour can bulk out salads, goes well in coked dishes or green smoothies
Chickweed- another bane to gardens, this common annual creeps along wild areas, with soft bright green small leaves and star shaped white flowers. They have a lovely mild lettuce like taste.