Back from a busy couple of weeks, here are five more of my favourites for you to forage for!
For anyone new to this blog, please take a look at Part 1 where you will find the rules for foraging, I must recap on rule number one – 100% ID AT ALL TIMES – If you don’t know exactly what it is, don’t eat it.
Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria Japonica or Fallopia Japonica)
Perhaps one that you would normally wish to never discover, especially in your own garden, Japanese Knotweed (JK) is edible and damn tasty to boot! Due to its extremely invasive nature, care must be taken if foraging, ensure the specimen has not been sprayed with chemicals.
Closely related to rhubarb, a similar flavour and used in a similar way, it is useful in deserts and to make sauces for gamey meat. Not just tasty, JK also contains vitamins A and C and is a source of potassium, zinc, phosphorus and manganese.
The young shoots are the parts to look for, its stems resembling bamboo in shape, has ‘knuckled’ nodes and the leaves a spear tip shape almost half oval with a flat bottom, sometimes pointed at the tip. The whole plant can be green and/or tinted red throughout. When in flower, the blooms are off white/cream and splay vertically like a popped champagne bottle.
Dandelion – (Taraxacum Officinale)
A well known ‘weed’ known for its diuretic properties although blown out of proportion in folklore (you will not wet the bed from sniffing the flowers) The flowers are similar to several other plants, some of which are not so good for you. The ‘teeth’ of the leaves will point back in towards the centre of the plant, this simple ID feature will single the plant out from most.
All parts of the Dandelion are edible, younger specimens better, the leaves are added to salads or boiled like spinach, flowers raw or cooked and sometimes used to flavour beer! The roots can be roasted and ground to be used like coffee for a hot beverage.
The benefits are astounding, Just half a cup of dandelions contain more calcium than a glass of milk and more iron than the same weight in spinach! A cup of the plant will contain around 19mg of vitamin C, more vitamin A than Carrots and an absolutely GIGANTIC amount of Vitamin K.
Rock Samphire – (Crithmum Maritimum)
Heading to the coast this summer? Have a look for this one adorning the cliffs of your chosen venue, and then pay an extortionate amount of money for it is the flashest of restaurants!
The leaves of Rock Samphire look similar to a set of deer antlers, cross sectionally the are triangular/roundish, the flowers are ‘umbeliferous’ ranging from off-white, through to yellowish-green. Please note that rock samphire belongs to the family Apiaceae – the most dangerous family of plants in the UK.
High in vitamin C and many essential vitamins and boasting many medicinal properties, rock samphire is one to be used as a pot herb which goes especially well with fish. It can be eaten raw and give a perfumey, spicy, citrus flavour.
Fat Hen (Chenopodium Album)
Fat Hen, Goosefoot, Lambs Quarters, to state a few of its common names, is usually discarded as a weed, but, should be used as an edible much the same as spinach.
The leaves are said to be the shape of a goose’s foot, if slightly more elongated. The leaves are ‘unwettable’ water will bead and run off, the underside is white, covered with a very fine layers of hairs. The flowers grow in lights green densely packed linear bunches, which later over exert the plant making it lean over
Fat Hen is a SUPERFOOD! The nutritional value is too diverse to list it here, give it a research, you will be astounded. For instance, 100g of the greens raw will provide 43Kcal, 4.2g of protein, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C and a whole host of minerals to boot. Its black seeds are high too in protein and many of the same nutrients as the leaves. In India, the plant is called Bathua, these seeds Are used much the same as rice or lentils. Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have once relied one these to feed his troops during tough times.
Fat Hen contains larger than average amounts of Oxalic Acid therefore should be eaten in moderation. To put this in context, Coffee and Chocolate also contain Oxalic Acid.
Chickweed (Stellaria Media)
Chickweed is the bane of some gardeners but is also grown as a food source by some, easily identified but also has some lookalikes. To positively ID Chickweed, first look for the oval shaped leaves that grow on the stems opposite each other, the lower ones on the stem have their own stalks. The flowers are very small, white, they have five petals and are so deeply lobed that it can look as though there are ten petals. A key identifier with chickweed is that it will have a single line of hairs growing the length of the stems. Other lookalikes will be completely covered by hairs.
Chickweed is eaten raw as a salad green or as a leaf green vegetable; it does contain high levels of saponins which are toxic, though a considerably large amount would need to be consumed. There are lists of medicinal properties, though most of these are not supported by scientific evidence.
Chickweed has an abundance of vitamins and minerals A, B1, B2, C, Calcium, Iron Potassium, Zinc to name but a few, It also contains protein and is high in Fiber.
Many thanks for tuning in, please let me know if you have feedback, everyday is a school day, even for the instructors of the world! As always, I will stress that 100% ID IS CRITICAL.
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