Going Wild

Passionate forager Adele Nozedar is a food writer and best-selling author of The Hedgerow Handbook and The Garden Forager. In her new title written for families, she encourages children to get outside and engage with nature, taking great pride in seeing their gatherings forming part of the family meal.

Damsons
Prunus insititia

Habitat: Hedgerows, verges, wasteland, domestic gardens

How can I recognise damsons and where can I find them?

The name of this fruit is derived from the word “Damascene”, meaning “from Damascus”, the capital of Syria.
In appearance, they’re very much like the Wild Plum, although tend to be smaller, and the tree bears fruit at an older age than the plum. Another difference is its flavour; when ripe, it has both a sweet and sharp flavour which makes for a lovely jam. A true damson has an oval shape, coming to a point at the opposite end from the stalk. The fruits come in different colours: blue-purple, yellow or green. If you’re lucky enough to find a glut of damsons, then this is a great way of using the fruits.

Poached Damsons

Makes 2 x 450g (1lb) jars

1kg (2 lbs) fresh or frozen plums (or damsons), washed

500g (18oz/21⁄2 cups) granulated sugar

➊ Place the damsons in a large heavy saucepan, add the sugar and just enough water to come halfway up the fruit.

➋ Set over a medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved, then cover and simmer for 15–20 minutes, until the fruit is tender.

➌ Strain the poached fruit in a sieve and set over a measuring jug. Let the fruit cool, then pick out and discard the stones. The remaining syrup can now be added back to the fruit.

➍ The poached fruit can be served straight away – it’s lovely piled on top of a meringue, added to Greek yogurt, or served with whipped cream or ice cream.

➎ Keep refrigerated in sterilised jars for up to a week, or freeze in containers for up to3 months.

Blackberries
Rubus fruticosus

Habitat: Anywhere and everywhere

Blackberries are, for lots of us, the first wild plant that we learn to pick. Gathering them makes you part of a tradition that goes back for thousands of years. They’re delicious, abundant and, above all, easy to recognise. There is nothing which can be mistaken for a Blackberry. At first, smalland green (and quite hard), the berries travel through a colour spectrum of pink, red, purple
and finally black, as they ripen. Their season is a long one, and it’s common to see both the blossoms and the fruit, all at different stages of ripeness, on the same arching briar.

Blackberries are loved by wildlife, too. Deer like to graze on the leaves, the berries are
eaten by birds and foxes and
the blossoms are favoured by a whole host of bees, butterflies and other insects. An ancient folk beliefsays that you shouldn’t eat Blackberries after October 11, since mischievous spirits spoil them after that date by spitting on them. In truth, at that timeof year the weather is getting colder and the berries themselves are usually past their best and sometimes starting to go mouldy.

If you’ve ever got caught up
in these thorny branches whilst picking the fruits, or if you’ve helped remove them from places where they’re not wanted in the garden, you’ll know just how sharp and prickly they are. Centuries ago, they were used to mark boundaries (and keep people out) in exactly the way that we use barbed wire today. They’re often found in churchyards, where, some people say, they were once deliberately planted to keep
sheep out.

This makes a delicious and filling snack to put in a lunch box.

Blackberry and Coconut Traybake

Makes 12 pieces (or more, if you cut them smaller!)

250g (9oz/generous 2 cups) self-raising (self-rising) flour

250g (9oz/1 cups) soft brown (light muscovado) sugar

30g (1 oz/2⁄3 cup) porridge oats (rolled oats)

pinch of salt

200g (7oz/13⁄4 sticks) butter, cold, chopped into small pieces 80g (3 oz/1 cup) dessicated (dried shredded) coconut, preferably unsweetened

2 medium eggs, beaten
350g (12oz/generous 21⁄2 cups)

blackberries, fresh or frozen

➊ Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 13 x 17 x 5cm (5 x 7x 2in) baking pan with baking parchment.

➋ Put the flour, sugar and oats into a large bowl, along with a small pinch of salt. Then, using only the tips of your fingers, rub the butter into the mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the coconut to the bowl and stir thoroughly to combine. Fill a teacup or small mug with
some of the mixture and set
aside to sprinkle on top later.

➌ Gently stir the beaten eggs into the remaining mixture, then spoon it all into the lined baking pan, using the back of a spoon to make sure the surface is level. Spread the berries all over the top, then sprinkle over the reserved crumble mixture, making sure that all the fruit is covered.

➍ Bake in the hot oven for 1 hour 15 minutes, until golden, turning the pan after 40 minutes to make sure that it bakes evenly. Leave to cool in the pan, then cut into squares. They will keep for one week in an airtight container.

Crow Garlic
Allium vineale

Habitat: Dry, poor soil, as well as verges, tracks and pathways

Plants that taste like garlic or onion will generally belong to the Allium family. These include “ordinary” garlic, as well as Wild Garlic, leeks, onions, shallots and chives.

Also known as Wild Onion, Crow Garlic is a tall plant, growing up to 80cm (21⁄2ft) high. In the early spring, you may see long, thin green strands emerging from the earth, which look like a thick, dark green grass (they also look very similar to Chives, often grown as a garden herb). Crow Garlic will grow along verges, in sandy places, in quite dry grassland where the soil hasn’t been enriched, and even in rocky places.

All parts of this plant are edible – the leaves, the stems, the flowers and even the seeds. The leaves and stems are great in a soup or a salad or you can also blitz them in a blender and mash into softened butter to make
a garlic butter (great on baked potatoes). The flowers make a delicious edible garnish, and the fresh seeds can be sprinkled anywhere that you would like
a crunchy, garlicky flavour and texture – in a cream cheese sandwich, for instance.

Wild Garlic also makes an absolutely delicious pesto, which can be used in exactly the same way that you would use a “normal” pesto – dollop heaps of it onto pasta for a scrummy dinner. It’s ridiculously easy to make!

Wild Garlic Pesto

Makes 200g (7 oz/1 cup)

100g (31⁄2oz) wild garlic leaves (or stems, flowers or seeds), washed and patted dry with paper towels

50g (2oz) strong, hard cheese, such as Cheddar or Parmesan, finely grated

50g (2oz/1⁄3 cup) toasted pine nuts (optional)

1 tbsp olive oil (optional)

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

➊ Simply put all the ingredients, except the olive oil, into a blender or food processor and blitz to preferred consistency (or grind in a pestle and mortar). You will find that so much juice comes from the leaves that you don’t need to add oil.

➋ If you’re not planning on using your pesto immediately, transfer it to a sterilised jar or airtight container and pour the olive oil over the top to preserve it. It will keep unopened in the refrigerator for up to a week. Once opened, use immediately.

 

Recipes extracted from Foraging with Kids by Adele Nozedar with illustrations by Lizzie Harper. Published by Nourish Books, PB RRP £12.99.

 

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