Foraging doesn’t only take place in the wildest places you can imagine – there’s a wilderness in everyone’s gardens, balconies or even on your lunch break walk.
Go out into your garden and have a look around, even if you’ve got a concrete heaven for a garden, I can guarantee there will be some plants trying to grow between the patio slabs or the gaps by the wall.
Plants love to grow and some will grow in next to no soil at all, much like this garlic mustard (image above) I spotted last week growing in a crack in the wooden fence.
The lazier the gardener you are the more potential edibles you will find out there, I had a wander around my garden and found 15 edible plants you’d spot on any country walk.
So let’s take a look at what can be foraged in our gardens.
The first and most obvious is dandelions, I know most gardeners hate them and always dig them up, but there’s actually a whole range of food you can create from dandelions.
- Capers – Starting off with capers from the unopened flower buds. Pop them in some cold white wine vinegar with a little garlic and pepper and leave for 3 weeks.
- Honey – Next with the opened flower petals, you can make a syrup that’s similar to honey.
- Salad – The leaves are great with a salad and I often have them on a bacon sandwich.
- Coffee – And finally, the roots if you do have to dig them up then make something from the roots either roast as a root vegetable or make dandelion root coffee check out the recipe on our website https://totallywilduk.co.uk/2018/11/10/dandelion-root-coffee/
The next plant I found was sticky weed or cleavers as it’s often called, it actually has lots of names, and more uses other than just throwing at your friends.
Cleavers are actually jam-packed with nutrients and minerals.
- Side dish – the young shoots gently wilted in some butter are amazing
- Herb – ground in a pestle mortar and used as a potherb to flavour soups or stews
- given their sticky nature I don’t recommend eating them raw unless very tiny shoots.
Most gardeners will have ornamental geraniums in their gardens but there’s a wild geranium called Herb Robert that grows as a weed in most patches of earth, it can be recognised by its star-shaped feathery leaves and hairy stems, with a delicate pink flower and a very distinctive smell.
Next is a plant that thrives through the winter months. Hairy bittercress, it tastes just like cress but so much better and fresher and not bitter at all, it’s great with:
- in salads
- In pesto,
And it grows pretty much everywhere, it doesn’t need much soil to grow and the seeds pop and send them about a meter away meaning it can spread quite quickly.
Next is one of my ultimate favourite edibles, Willowherb.
- Salad- the leaves can be added to a salad as a rocket substitute
- Asparagus – the stems can be treated like asparagus and taste just like asparagus great when there’s likely to be shortages in the shops!
- Tea – But my favourite use for this plant is the good old British cuppa tea, take 5 or 6 leaves and roll them in your hands to oxidise the leaves, leave them for about an hour to dry in a warm place (I often use the dashboard of my car for this) and that’s it, add them to hot water like you would any loose leaf tea leaves.
Nettles, something we mainly find in hedgerows but sometimes you can be lucky to get them in the garden, nettles are a superfood, packed full of vitamins and minerals, and a million uses, they taste great, and if you crush or cook them they don’t sting you! We make:
- nettle pasta ( see our website for a great pasta recipe that’s super easy to make
- nettle cordial,
- nettle soup,
- nettle crisps
- the list is endless, you can also use nettles to make rope if you strip the old long stems to get to the fibres they can then be spun to a twine.
Hawthorn, often used as hedging, Hawthorn offers some amazing young shoots, the leaves tasting great in salads and the best thing is their appetite suppressant so its natures diet food! In may we get hawthorn blossoms which have an amazing almond flavour and are great added to salads or to infuse into a syrup, which is great in cocktails or cakes. Finally, in the Autumn the berries are high in vitamin c and pectin so they’re great added to jams or fruit leather to help them set.
And finally, my daughters favourite daisies, yes that’s right the little white flowers growing in your lawn are edible and they taste wonderful too, the leaves and flowers are fabulous in salads and the unopened flowers are also really great pickled like capers!
So what’s growing in your garden?
Wild Food is always there to forage, you just have to look.
From Forager Sam