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GET INTO FORAGING
shares the joys of discovering wild food, and gives some practical tips for those looking to get started
Would you like a fresh supply of organic, nutritious, free food? What if I said you could have all this, while developing a closer connection with your local landscape?
As a vegan of 32 years, there are many reasons I love foraging. All foraging walks are a delight as I am never entirely sure what I will find.
Foraging enables me to cut down on plastic packaging throughout late spring and summer when wild food is so plentiful, and partly into autumn too. My food bills are greatly reduced as I harvest fresh salad ingredients on my daily walks, and I enjoy spending part of my weekends making drinks, meals and condiments which I preserve to last me through the colder months.
Apart from knowing which plants are
safe to eat, the most important aspect of foraging is conservation. Since the 1930s, there has been huge habitat decline in the UK. It is therefore vital to protect plant populations by only picking small quantities at a time from colonies which are large enough to withstand some harvesting. Most edible plants reproduce by seeds usually formed from the flowers, so it is important to be restrained when harvesting flowers – if the colony is small, only pick the leaves. Remember also that many animals rely on plants for their food, especially birds and insects, so conserve plant populations for them. To start your foraging journey, here are ten commonly found and easy-to-use plants to look out for this summer.
"Apart from knowing which plants are not safe to eat, the most important aspect of foraging is conservation. Since the 1930s, there has been huge habitat decline in the UK.
Easy to find throughout the year, young dandelion leaves can be used in salads or cooked like spinach as a side vegetable.
To use the flowers, shake them well and pull off the petals, as they often harbour tiny black insects. Infuse the petals in oil or vinegar for flavoursome dressings or use to make wine or tea. For a coffee substitute, chop and roast the roots for 40 minutes at 350 °C and then simmer.
Do not eat any wild plant unless you are sure it is safe.
A comprehensive plant identification guide will help you to feel confident in your decisions, whereas some plant identification apps can often be inaccurate.
Wild thyme can be found on walls, rocks or field edges
The delicate creamy-yellow blooms of elder trees are a delight to find in summer hedgerows. Pick them with a good stem attached and shake them well to remove little insects.
Elderflower can be used to make cordial or wine.
Note of caution:
elderflower has some nasty lookalikes, so exercise caution when picking.
With broad leaves and a head of little white flowers, garlic mustard grows in woodlands and hedgerows. Only pick them if there are lots available, as they only produce flowers and seeds in the second year. Steam the stem and flowerheads like tender stem broccoli, then add a drizzle of olive oil, some freshly ground black pepper and a twist of lemon. It is heaven on a plate.
Look for this plant on dry, bare ground and in cracks in walls and pathways. At its base is a rosette of multiple individual leaf stems, each with small round leaves growing opposite each other in pairs along the length of the stem. Out of this rosette protrudes a tall spindly stem with tiny white flowers on top. Use the leaves, stems and flowers like rocket as a spicy addition to salads and sandwiches.
If you are fortunate enough to live near a lime tree, stand beside it on a summer evening and breathe in the sweet honey scent from its blossoms. It is intoxicating! Use the flowers fresh or dried, infused in boiling water for 5–10 minutes for a relaxing tea which may help to induce sleep.
High in iron and useful for lowering blood pressure, young nettle tips can be cooked like spinach or made into a simple soup by frying chopped ramsons and then adding nettles and diced potatoes with a little water. Boil until the potatoes are soft, then add soya or oat milk, salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg before liquidising. Wear sting-proof gloves when you are harvesting them and avoid the older leaves which are too bitter.
(featured on magazine cover)
In late spring and early summer, some ancient woodlands become carpeted in long, broad, dark green leaves from which emerge heads of white star-like flowers. These vast colonies of ramsons can be harvested for use in salads, soup, pesto and any other dish which requires a leafy vegetable and some garlic.
Note of caution:
check your harvested leaves carefully because two poisonous plants sometimes grow among ramsons, namely dog’s mercury and lords and ladies.
There are many varieties of mint to choose from. If you find it growing in a field or wood it is likely to be corn mint, but if you find it by water, and its leaves are almost purplish, it is probably water mint. This has a stronger taste so should be used sparingly. Apple mint lives on verges and dry waste grounds, and has slightly paler and less pointed leaves. Use mint leaves to make tea, flavour summer drinks or, for a special treat, sprinkle on top of chocolate ice cream.
This low-growing plant with dark pinkish-lilac flowers and small dark green leaves often forms dense fragrant mats on top of cliffs, but enjoy any dry habitat such as walls, rocks or field edges. Use it in salad dressings and to infuse vinegar or add to mushroom dishes for an extra zing.
If you have a stream near you, check whether there is watercress growing there. Harvest throughout the year, except during frosts, but be careful to avoid pulling up the whole plant. Instead, cut the upper parts of the leafy stem, including the flowers.
Note of caution:
if there are sheep or cattle grazing nearby, wash very thoroughly to avoid being infected with liver fluke, a nasty parasite. If in doubt, cook it to make watercress soup.
Preserving your foraged foods
If you have used your harvest in a cooked recipe, the easiest way to preserve it is to freeze it. Most food lasts for three months when frozen.
When harvesting wild herbs, pick them in the morning and shake them to remove insects. Tie them in small bunches to avoid rot or mould forming, place them in a paper bag and hang them upside down in a warm, well-ventilated room out of direct sunlight and humidity for 2–3 weeks. A quicker method, if you have the space, is to pick off the leaves and lay them on a tray for 3–4 days.
Storing in bottles or jars
After washing your bottles or jars in hot soapy water, sterilise them by using the highest setting of your dishwasher cycle.
Alternatively, heat the oven to 140 °C, place a sheet of baking paper on one of the shelves, lay out the bottles so they are not touching and keep them in for 20 minutes. Use the bottles or jars as soon as possible and remember to also sterilise the lids.
Woody River runs foraging walks in the South of England.
4 unwaxed lemons
30 elderflower heads
2 litres boiling water
1 kg sugar
Cut two lemons in half and place them in a large bowl with the clean elderflower heads. Pour the boiling water over the top and cover with muslin cloth overnight. The next day, strain the mixture through the muslin and then heat the liquid in a pan, adding the remaining lemon juice and sugar. When the sugar has dissolved, simmer for three minutes before pouring into sterilised bottles or jars. Store the cordial in a cold place and consume it within two weeks.
150 g ramsons (leaves, flowers and stems) 65 g cashews, almonds or walnuts 2–4 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes 1 lemon 100 ml olive oil Salt and pepper
Wash and dry the ramsons, checking carefully for snails, slugs and bird droppings. Also check to make sure there are no other leaves included. Chop the leaves and add in batches to a food processor, scraping down the sides in between blitzing. Add the nuts, yeast flakes, a squeeze of lemon and then the olive oil a drizzle at a time to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Store it in a sterilised glass jar or plastic tub in the fridge for up to five days or freeze in small portions for three months.
COOKING WITH PARITA
Parita Kansagra shares three vegan Indian recipes packed with flavour
"Hi! My name is Parita, and I’m a vegan food blogger and recipe developer. I went vegan for the animals and found showcasing delicious vegan recipes to my friends and family was the most compelling way to introduce my new lifestyle change. Through CookingWithParita I’m able to share my love for Indian cooking, from whole foods to indulgent recipes. You’ll find more of my mouthwatering recipes on my blog:
. I’d love to see and repost the recipes you try from this magazine issue, so don’t forget to tag me @ParitaKansagra on Instagram and @CookingWithParita on Tiktok.
PUFF PASTRY ALOO CHAAT
Time needed: 40 minutes
For the green chutney
1 cup packed coriander
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1–3 green chillies
For the puff pastry aloo chaat
4–5 potatoes (800 g) 2 tbsp olive oil Salt and black pepper ½ tsp cumin powder ½ tsp chilli powder ½ tsp chaat masala Puff pastry ready-rolled sheet Oat milk for brushing 1 red onion, diced 8–10 cherry tomatoes, diced 5 tbsp vegan yoghurt ½ cup pomegranate seeds 3–4 tbsp sev 1–2 tbsp fresh coriander
Did you know?
Sev is an Indian snack made with chickpea flour. It adds a wonderful crunch to this puff pastry chaat.
You can find this at your local Indian supermarket or even online.
This Indian street food-inspired dish comes together with store-bought puff pastry, potatoes, spices, vegan yoghurt, pomegranate seeds, sev and a quick green chutney. It’s a super simple recipe that’s perfect for an appetiser, lunch or side dish.
First make the green chutney by adding the coriander, salt, sugar, water, lemon juice and green chillies into a food processor and blending until the mixture is smooth. Set this aside.
Place the potatoes in a pot filled with cold water and boil until just cooked. Drain and allow the potatoes to cool slightly before peeling the skin off and cutting them into medium-small sized cubes.
Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the potatoes to cook for 3 minutes on high or until they start to get a little crispy. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the salt, black pepper and cumin powder and cook for 2–3 minutes. Add the chilli powder and chaat masala. Cook for another 2 minutes and set aside.
Cut the puff pastry sheet into 8 rectangles. Brush with a little oat milk and bake following the packaging instructions.
With a spoon, deflate the middle of each puff pastry, leaving a border. Add the aloo chaat, tomatoes and onions to the centre of each pastry. Drizzle with green chutney and vegan yoghurt. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, sev and fresh coriander.
TAHINI CHOCOL ATE CHIP COOKIES
2 tsp flax meal
4 tsp hot water
113 g vegan salted butter, room temperature
100 g light brown sugar
100 g granulated sugar
100 g tahini
2 tsp vanilla extract
140 g plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
250 g vegan dark chocolate chips
Time needed: 3hrs 30 mins
These vegan Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies make for the most incredible chewy, soft, decadent dessert. These are perfectly salty and sweet, plus they are easy to make and use simple ingredients – what’s not to love?
Combine the flax meal with the hot water to make a “flax egg” and set aside.
Beat the butter with the light brown sugar and the granulated sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the well-stirred tahini, vanilla extract, flax egg and mix.
Add the plain flour, baking soda and salt and mix until combined. Fold in the vegan dark chocolate chips. Cover the bowl with a plate and refrigerate overnight (or for at least 3 hours).
Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the cookie dough out of the fridge and allow it to come back to room temperature – this should take around 30 minutes. Use a tablespoon to take two scoops of the cookie dough, and roll this into a ball. Place the cookie balls on the baking sheet, leaving a 2-inch gap between each ball.
Bake the cookies for 13–14 minutes or until the edges start to become golden.
Sprinkle the warm cookies with salt flakes. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes on the baking tray before transferring onto a wire rack to cool for another 5 minutes.
TOFU TAWA BURGERS
Time needed: 40 minutes
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion, diced
½ tsp grated ginger
1 ½ tsp grated garlic
1 bell pepper, diced
½ frozen peas
2–3 tomatoes, diced Salt and black pepper
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp pav bhaji masala
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1 firm tofu block (280 g), cut into small cubes
1 cup vegan cheese, grated
3–4 tbsp chopped coriander
6 medium soft rolls
2–4 tbsp vegan butter
Did you know?
Pav bhaji masala is a blend of spices. You can make your own blend at home, but storebought makes everything easier. You’ll find this in your local Indian supermarket or online.
If you’re in the mood for something packed with flavour, make these Tofu Tawa Burgers! The juicy filling is made with tofu, frozen peas, spices, vegan cheese, tomato sauce and fresh coriander. ‘Tawa’ means ‘pan’, and these pan-fried burgers are made with a little coriander, pav bhaji masala and vegan cheese.
Heat the oil in a pan over a high heat. Add the onions, ginger and garlic to the pan and cook for 1–2 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
Add the bell pepper, peas and tomatoes to the pan, mixing to combine. Add the salt, black pepper, chilli powder, ground turmeric and pav bhaji masala. Cook for 2–4 minutes.
Mix in the tomato sauce and firm tofu and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn the heat to low, add half of the vegan cheese and continue cooking until it has melted. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp chopped coriander.
Split the burger buns in half lengthways and fill with the tofu filling.
Heat a pan with vegan butter, sprinkle with a little pav bhaji masala, chopped coriander, vegan cheese and mix. Dip each burger into the butter masala to cover entirely. Hold the burger and carefully press and flip until all sides are golden and warm.
Dill iciously VEGAN