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Wild Food

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There are 39 entries in the glossary.
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AlexandersAlexanders (Smyrnium olustratum, Umbelliferae)
An umbellifer, introduced by the Romans to Great Britain and now widely naturalsed. Most often encountered around the coast, being especially abundant in the South West coast but also found on some locations inland. Cut leaf stems near the base of the plant, discard the greener end nearer the leaf, and steam until tender but with a little remaining 'bite'. Serve like asparagus. Best picked in Spring or early summer, before the plant flowers. The leaves make a fine alternative to parsley; their preference for growing near the coast makes them ideal to gather when also gathering mussels, for which they make a superb seasoning.
BeechBeech (Fagus sylvatica, Fagaceae)
A common tree native to much of Britain and widely planted elsewhere, the leaves of this tree are a useful wild food in late spring, harvest once they have emerged from the bud but before they take on a papery texture in summer.

One of the finest wild food liquers (beech leaf noyeaux) can be made from the leaves. The nuts (beech mast) can be roasted as a coffee alternative, used as an animal feed or de-hulled for extraction of the clear edible oil which can be used for burning in lamps or as a furniture polish.
BirchBirch (Betula species, Betulaceae)
Like Maple can be tapped in the spring for it's sap, which can be boiled down to make a syrup. The syrup is used as the basis for Birch Sap Wine and vinegar and differs from Maple syrup in it's composition being largely fructose and glucose (at rather lower dilutions) than the sucrose found in Maple sap. Birch leaves provide green and yellow dyes.
BlackberryBlackberry (Rubus fructicosus, Rosaceae)
Also known as brambles an almost ubiquitous, savagely thorny, spreading bush producing white flowers in summer and succulent berries in late summer and autumn, usually into early winter. 'Blackberrying' is perhaps the most universal experience of foraging, enjoyed by children and adults all over the UK. Blackberries are immensely useful, making ideal ingredients in jams, jellies and chutneys, as well as summer and autumn puddings, liquers and ice cream. They freeze well for winter use.
BlewitA common edible mushroom, most often found in the winter. The most frequently found is the field blewit, Lepista saeva, characterised by its purple stem, but perhaps more highly esteemed is the wood blewit, Lepista nuda.
Cow ParsleyCow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris, Umbelliferae)
A common umbellifer, and a close relative of chervil with an excellent, aromatic flavour. Great care must be taken to avoid confusion with poisonous umbellifers such as hemlock, the water dropworts and rough chervil. An experienced (and careful) forager will find that the leaves of this plant, picked young, are superb in salads, as flavouring in soups, etc. A biennial plant that produces lush green growth in autumn, providing much needed edible greenery through the winter months.
Cow ParsnipSee Hogweed.
DaisyDaisy (Bellis perennis)
Yes, the daisy flowers in your lawn, and their leaves. They're ever so slightly peppery, but very small and pretty. Pick them at the last minute for serving in a salad or as a garnish (so they don't close up). Both leaves and flowers are edible. Other species of daisy, such as the ox-eye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) aren't of such cullinary interest, stick with the common or garden Bellis perennis.
DamsonSmall tart plum relative, ideal for jam and wine making, much hardier than plums, ideal for Northern regions and frost pockets, can also be used in edible hedges.
DandelionDandelion (Taraxacum officianale)
An abundant perennial that needs little introduction to gardeners! Often found in gardens, meadows and waste land it has a large tap root and long broad jagged leaves. Bright yellow flowers mainly in April. Young leaves can be eaten in salads, flowers can be made into wine and the roots can even be roasted and turned into a hot drink.
DewberryRubus caesius. The dewberry is a delightful and overlooked fruit. The plant is a low, spreading shrub, like a flattened blackberry, with which the fruit has much in common. It is typically a little softer, a little smaller and a lot juicier, covered with a more obvious bloom than blackberries. If you find it growing on open ground, the fruit can be big enough and plentiful enough to pick abundantly. Use it as you would blackberries.
Dog rosesee rose
ElderElder (Sambucus nigra)
This tree can be found anywhere in the UK, it is a weedy, scrubby specimen most often with gnarled, broken branches. A weed, and an early coloniser of waste ground.

The flower buds, flowers and berries are useful in a wide range of foods and drinks. The buds can be pickled, the flowers used in wine, soft drinks and desserts, and the berries eaten in jams, made into wine, used for making pontiack sauce, and have many other uses.

There are many cultivated varieties available for home planting, some with berries of different colours
Fat HenFat Hen (Chenopodium album, chenopodiaceae)
A very useful and tasty spinach alternative believed to be native to the UK.
Garlic MustardGarlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata, Brassicaceae)
Also known as Jack by the hedge and hedge garlic. It is common near hedges and in woodlands throughout the British Isles, grows up to 1.2m high and has white flowers and is an important food plant for many native insects. Has long been used as a flavouring having (surprisingly enough) a garlic/mustardy flavour, young leaves can also be used in spring salads
Garlic, WildSee Ramson
Good King HenryGood King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus, Chenopodiaceae)
An ancient leafy vegetable very rich in vitmains and minerals, the leaves, young shoots and flower spikes may be eaten as spinach. Do not eat if you have kidney problems A poultice made from the leaves can be used to ease sore skin.
Ground ElderGround Elder (Aegopodium podagraria, Umbelliferae)
One of the many umbellifers first introduced to the British Isles by the Romans, this widely hated persistent weed makes capital eating. It was grown as a culinary and medicinal plant until the middle ages. Pick the young, bright green leaf shoots and add them to salads, or pick slightly older leaves, remove from the stems and steam as a cooked green vegetable.
HogweedHogweed (Heracleum sphondylium)
Also known as cow parsnip, an almost ubiquitous wild plant, found in hedgerows, waste places, field edges and woodlands throughtout most of the U.K. Pick young shoots in Spring, steam briefly or fry in butter, and serve like asparagus. Care must be taken to avoid confusion with giant hogweed, (Heracleum mantegazzianum) which can cause a severe dermal response in some individuals.
Jews EarJews Ear (Auricularia auricula-judea)
Not uncommon on elder trees and on dead wood, this disturbing fungus resembles nothing more than a clammy wet human ear. If you can get past that, it is a useful edible species, resembling the Chinese wood ear mushroom in both taste and texture, hence being useful in oriental cooking
KelpKelp (Laminaria digitata)
A common seaweed, which picked and eaten fresh (and from clean seawater) is good in salads. A source of alginates, use sliced kelp to thicken soup.
Ladys SmockCardamine pratensis, also known as cuckoo flower. A common pinkish flower by streams and damp meadows from April till July, this brassicaceae has a hot, peppery flavour.
Lesser CelandineLesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)
A wonderful spring flower; bright golden yellow flowers with glossy, heart shaped green leaves. And at least in the South of England very reliable; it flowers from the end of February to the middle of summer. Don't faff about preparing this plant for the table, merely pick the flowers and leaves and toss them into a spring salad. The flavour is mild, but the colour is excellent.
MorelMorel (Morchella esculenta, M. vulgaris, M. rotunda)
One of the most prized mushrooms, it's like a brown brain on a stick, but rather than the lobes pointing outwards, they all poke inwards. Found in Spring, March is probably the best time to go hunting for it. You get it in mixed and coniferous woodlands, especially if the soil is a bit sandy or has been burned, and occasionally on wood chippings. In my opinion, it's overrated, but some people go crazy over it. Make sure you get all the sand and bugs out of the lobes, and be sure to cut it in two to make sure all the beasties are gone. Then you can cook it down with a little cream and some seasoning, and serve it on toast. There are many other ways to cook it, you'll find all manner of recipes in cook books. Be careful not to confuse it with the false Morel, Gymomitra esculenta, which rather than being like a holy-brain is more lobe like. A quick look at pictures of this mushroom will be enough for you to distinguish it from true morels.
Mountain AshSee rowan.

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