The first rule of Forage Club is… never eat anything unless you’re 100% sure of what it is!
Never pick wild food where dogs or people may have urinated and it’s probably not a good idea to pick something from next to a road. Also remember that in the UK it’s illegal to dig up the roots of any wild plant without the proper permission.
We have nature on our doorstep in Katesgrove, and as well as blackberries, apples, horseradish and cob nuts, Waterloo Meadows has a healthy supply of nettles and elderberries.
May is a good season for picking the new fresh green growth from nettles; wear gardening gloves and only nip out the top tender leaves. Nettle soup is tasty and nutritious, but for a simple recipe why not try nettle pesto on your pasta?
Blanch a good few handfuls of nettle tops in boiling water for one minute, then dunk in cold water, strain well and pat dry with kitchen towel. Blitz the nettles with garlic, olive or rapeseed oil, sea salt, toasted pine nuts and a handful of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese to taste.
May is also when the elder starts to flower. Pick the frilly cream heads at the beginning of the season, before they get yellowish and heavy with pollen. Pick a few heads from one tree and move on to find another, leaving some flowers for the insects and to turn into berries later in the year. Elderflower cordial or champagne are easy to make but a bit of a faff. For instant gratification, try elderflower fritters. Give the elderflower heads a good shake to dislodge any tiny wildlife before you start cooking.
This recipe is from Nigel Slater but there are lots of alternative recipes online!
- Sift 100g of plain flour into a basin then add 2 tablespoons of oil and 175ml of sparkling mineral water.
- Beat to a thick paste, then stir in a tablespoon of sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Just before frying the elderflowers, beat an egg white and fold it into the batter. Rinse 12-16 elderflower heads, shake them dry and snip the flower heads into small stems.
- Get a pan of oil hot then dip the elderflowers into the batter and lower them into the oil.
- Hold them under the oil by pushing down on the stem.
- Fry until the batter is pale gold and crisp, then lift out and dip straight into a dish of caster sugar.
- Eat the fritters while they are hot and crisp.