Spring has arrived and brought some delicious plants to forage. I thought it would be fun to share which plants I’ve been harvesting and how you can use them. Most of these are very nutritious and delicious.
Safety Tips When Foraging
- Do not eat anything you cannot identify with certainty
- Some plants may be polluted, collect away from roads/paths
- Don't take more than you need, never take the first plant
- Leave enough for wildlife and other foragers!
- Thank the plant
Few Flowered Leek (Allium paradoxum)
My favourite plant to harvest at the moment is the few flowered leek (Allium paradoxum). It grows in abundance because it is an invasive. Currently it grows all around Edinburgh, often covering large areas. You’re likely to smell it even from afar! When you’re harvesting this plant make sure not to uproot it, cut it with scissors or a knife. The bulbs can re-grow rather quickly and it is illegal to distribute. Plants that it could be confused with are typical spring bulbs like snowdrop, daffodils, bluebells and crocus. Make sure to smell the plants, check if they have a triangular stem.
How to identify few flowered leek?
- It smells strongly like onion/garlic/leek
- Triangular flower stem
- Small paper like delicate flowers
- Little green bulbils as fruits
- Check WildFood UK for more information and images
How to Use Few Flowered Leek
- Pesto (sunflower seed, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, few flowered leek)
- Stir-fry (fry the leek for a short time only to avoid loosing the taste)
- Eat raw (salads, on toast etc.)
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
Garlic mustard is a biennial plant; it grows in a ground level rosette with heart shaped leaves in its first year, followed by a flowering stem in the second year. The clustered flowers are small and white and it won't take long until they start blooming. So far I've only found the rosettes of first year leaves. They smell clearly like garlic and are very commonly found growing close together with other plants mentioned here.
How to identify garlic mustard?
-Smells clearly like garlic when crushed
-Once the flowers are out the smell is even stronger!
-Rosette heart shaped leaves
-Cluster of hits small flower
-Check for images and description here
How to Use Garlic Mustard
-Flowers and leaves are edible raw or cooked
-Seeds can be used as mustard
Bramble (Rubus fruticosus)
Bramble is very easy to identify. It's a prickly plant that twists around most woods and parks. You'll want to harvest the light green freshly grown leaves. There are many different brambles but all have edible leaves followed by delicious fruits in late summer/ early autumn. The leaves are only edible raw when very young, so beware the thorns!
Cleavers (Gallium aparine)
Another wonderful plant that's popping up everywhere currently are the cleavers (Gallium aparine). It's also known as sticky willy because it is indeed a sticky plant! I find cleavers taste best in spring, they have a subtle 'green' taste to them and are usually infused in cold or warm water.
You can also cook them in a stir fry, but I find they are rather chewy when picked late in the season. Feel free to mix them with nettle, few flowered leek and garlic mustard!
Cleaver and Bramble Leaf Tea
This is a very simple tea made from fresh or dried cleaver and young bramble leaves. Infuse for 10 minutes and drink while warm. It tastes earthy! Feel free to mix these with other herbs.
Nettles (Urtica dioica)
Nettles are one of the most delicious plants out there (unless they've been peed on, then they're not tasty at all). They're high in nutrients and are a great source of iron. When harvesting beware the stinging! I usually harvest with gloves or pull my sweater sleeve over my hand. Use a knife to cut the fresh growth from the tops.
How to use nettles?
-Tea (dried or fresh)
-Stir-fry (the stings disappear when cooked)
-Soup (add some other vegetables for taste)
I hope you enjoyed this little foraging post. If you've got any questions don't hesitate to ask. Please do further research on plants mentioned if you are not sure!