With our gardens and countryside now alive with an abundance of plants, our gardening expert NAOMI FORD extols the pleasures of foraging for nutritious food.
With late spring upon us and summer just around the corner, this is one of the best times of year to forage.
When I’m out and about in the countryside at this time of year, I always try and take some bags with me wherever I go, because you never know what you might find in the most unexpected of places.
Nettles, dandelions and cleavers are all spreading rapidly now. The good news is that they’re all highly nutritious and can help give the body a great spring tonic.
They can be used as tasty ingredients in a variety of dishes, from stir fries to stews. And, of course, they can be used to make a healthy, refreshing pot of tea.
Ransoms – also known as ramsons and wild garlic – are plentiful in certain areas, and lovely in salads, though they lose their flavour somewhat if they are cooked. Also, take care not to confuse these with the poisonous lily of the valley.
All of the ransom plant can be eaten but I prefer to just use the leaves, as this keeps large quantities of the plant available for the future.
The young beech leaves can also be made into a green liqueur; I hope to try making some this year.
Later in spring, hawthorn leaves and flowers can also be eaten. These have a normalising action on the heart.
It takes a while to pick any amount, but if you do they can be dried and used as a herbal tea.
Some of our traditional weeds can also be eaten in salads or soups.
Ground elder, brought in by the Romans for food, is beginning to make a comeback now as a food plant.
So, instead of using noxious methods to get rid of it, add it to stews and soups - a much more satisfying way of dealing with it.
Even blackberry leaves can be dried and made into a substitute tea.
Violet leaves are very good for you and can also be dried to make a tea. The flowers look attractive in salads and ice cubes – though only pick the flowers if they are growing in a garden.
Burdock leaves can be dried for use as tea too, and their young stems can be cut and cooked like asparagus.
Alexanders lose their cloying smell when cooked and now, in late spring, taste like pepper.
Late spring really is a time of plenty - and as long as we take just enough for our needs, there will always be enough for everyone.