Will's Wild Food Diary

 Wild food diary

Fresh, organic and free! Of all things bushcrafty, nothing gets me more excited than a foraging adventure.

From time to time, I update this page with a different wild food that is in season –  gradually building up a seasonal diary of some of the foraging delights available to us.

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Disclaimer: there's lots of good wild stuff to eat, and much of it is fairly easy to identify. Unfortunately, there are also some plants and fungi that can make you seriously ill or worse. This diary is a brief overview intended to inspire and not a substitute for an in-depth field guide and/or skilled teacher. I will endeavour to point out any obvious poisionous look alikes, but ultimately foraging is the individual's responsibility. Unless you are 100 per cent confident you know what something is, leave it alone! Also, please be aware that, as with any food, different people can have different reactions. It is wise to try just a small amount first.

Ground elder – gardeners' frustration or foragers' elation?

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If I was the type of forager who occasionally enjoyed feeling a little bit smug, I think I would Google (I prefer Ecosia, but it doesn't have the same ring) ground elder and chuckle at the dozens of gardeningground elder garden forums full of desperate pleas for a soloution to this invasive 'weed.' 
My answer is eat it! After all, it was originally grown as a green vegetable (probably another legacy of our Roman friends), and it is really very tasty, with a strong fresh parsley flavour. What's more, being such an effective coloniser, it seems to sprout up all over the place. As well as your garden, churchyards are a good place to look and probably give rise to one of its colloquial names, Bishop's weed.
The picture on the right is a patch in the corner of our back garden – it's been out for about the last 6 weeks. I picked a big bowl of the stuff in 5 minutes, took it straight inside, cooked it with a potato and a stock cube, and a short while later was tucking into a really fresh zingy soup. As with most of my soups, I usually cook the base ingredients first, and then pop the greens in at the last minute, that way, more of the nutrients are preserved. It's also great as a tender salad green when young and goes lovely in a sarnie, see bottom pic.
Foraging considerations: The most important thing to say is, like Alexanders, which we looked at recently, this is a member of the umbelliferae/ carrot family, which contains some deadly plants – mainly Hemlock, Hemlock water dropwort and Fools parsley. I hesitated to write another carrot family post so soon after the last, but its sheer 'under your nose' abundance, plus it's unfair persecution, persuaded me otherwise.
With care and a little bit of studying you should be able to recognise this plant easily enough. Key points to look out for include shallow serated leaves that are in groups of three with a point at the end, a grooved stem and an early spring appearance. It also has a distintly parsley smell when crushed – although don't purely rely on this. Despite the name, it is not related to the elder tree, although the leaves have a similar shape. ground elder close up
Ideally, pick this in the next few weeks, as its flavour becomes course when it matures. It responds well to the 'cut and come again' approach, soground elder sandwich with a bit of forethought you can get a few harvests before the autumn. The roots will stay in the ground over winter, before the plant vigorously pops up again next spring – to the forager's delight (and slight smugness).

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