Do you pick blackberries in the hedgerow or gather sweet
chestnuts in the woods? Do you eagerly await the arrival of mushrooms in
the fields? Lots of people enjoy these common foods growing naturally
without cultivation especially in our season of soft mists and mellow
fruitfulness. But there are multitudes of more unusual recipes using
common foods, which have been forgotten about over time.
Rowan berries make excellent jelly and wine, fat hen can
be used like spinach and yarrow makes a very soothing and delicious tea.
Pine needles also make a good tea, particularly during the colder months
of the year as it is exceptionally warming. Or how about trying acorn
coffee? Boil your acorns for fifteen minutes, then take off the shell and
peel. Dry them out and grind them in a coffee grinder. Roast without
burning then brew, serving the coffee with sugar and milk.
Remember that nature’s bounty can be found all year
round. Winter soups can be made from chickweed. Spring will herald young
tender dandelion leaves and wild garlic for use in salads. Summer can
bring blossoms and fruits for making wine. Try elder flower champagne for
a special summer celebration drink.
There may be many reasons why we have collectively lost
this knowledge of our food heritage and a result of this is that we can be
afraid to try these "new" foods. As well as this, all plants are
protected and it is illegal to uproot plants without the landowners
permission. Following some simple guidelines can help you pick both safely
Use a good guidebook to identify plants (try Roger
Phillips’ Wild Food or Richard Mabey, Food for Free). Never pick a plant
or mushroom if you are not sure what it is. Only harvest plants that are
in abundance to avoid endangering populations. Make sure you have the
Don’t be put off trying wild foods as it can be a fun
way of extending your culinary knowledge and impressing your friends and
Canterbury Greenspace Officer