Heady, hidden depths
Nikki Bawn of Boggle Lane Foods takes a look beneath the cold, hard ground and discovers a hidden world of wondrous regeneration.
Lincolnshire’s landscapes may look bare and uninspiring in January, but despite winter’s bite there is more going on than meets the eye.
The dark and cold can do little to limit nature and there are species of plants, animals, insects and fungi that even now are on the precipice of new life.
For foragers everywhere, winter holds almost as much allure as any other season when it comes to gathering from the wild.
Now is the time that ancient plants like elder and hazel burst into life with new buds and little yellow, lamb-tail-like catkins.
Wood Avens may be common in most hedgerows and woodlands, but they are surprising. Their leaves bubble up like prawn crackers when they are deep-fried, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper completes this interesting snack.
With leaves that look like those of the wild strawberry, wood avens are great in salads. For centuries, the roots, which have the aroma of cloves, have been known to possess powerful pain relief and healing benefits for diseases linked to over-indulgence, such as gout.
Another pleasant discovery for me has been the ancient plant of Alexander, introduced by the Romans; its blackened seeds can be used to season your dishes once dried, because they look and taste just like peppercorns!
Look out for the early shoots of lovely bright green just before the leaves are fully open; pick them for a great spinach substitute. As always, make sure you are certain of the identity of what you are picking!
If you are brave and fancy a coastal walk, you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to wild food. Look in rocky outcrops by the sea to find superb pickings like sea plantain, rock samphire and succulent penny wort leaves – all delicious greens to steam and add nutritious flavoured sides to go with your roast dinners and slow cook recipes.
It may seem bleak, and you may feel a little sloth-like, but even now there are beauties around to provide a pick-me-up and positivity.
It’s only a couple of months before the sun makes its presence properly known again, so go, explore, be curious and create delicious smoothies, side greens and snacks.
I like to create my own kind of special salsa verdi (green sauce) with my coastal finds and combine it with fresh fish, for a guilt-free, delicious dinner. I also like to spritz up a smoothie from my wild leaves for a much-needed boost on dull days.
Foraging fills my basket and lifts my spirits, and I highly recommend it!
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