MM reveal the top five wild foods that are right outside your door...
In the midst of the deepest, darkest recession known to man, we humans are struggling to feed ourselves (according to the tabloids). So now is the time to embrace the natural world… Bear Grylls style.
Almost asparagus and almost sea-weed, this sea vegetable looks a bit like a mini-cactus without the spikes. Samphire (or glasswort as it is also known) is a delicacy served in fish restaurants the world over and it grows in abundance around the British coastline. Although this gourmet green can be found all over our coastal marshes, it peaks during the summer months and rumour has it that the best crop can be found in Norfolk. Next time you’re by the sea, keep your eyes peeled for this jolly green plant, snip yourself a bundle, grab yourself some locally baked bread and enjoy it smothered in butter. Alternatively, treat yourself to a nice piece of fish and serve it with samphire mash. Whatever you do with your samphire, you must abide by these three rules:
1. Don’t put salt on it- it is an extremely salty plant.
2. Don’t eat the stalks- they’re very chewy like asparagus (therefore don’t pick samphire from the roots- it will have a better chance of survival then too!)
3. Make sure you have washed it before you eat it- there’s nothing worse than muddy (or crabby) samphire!
There are a ridiculous amount of mussels clinging to the UK’s coastline, and when you can pay anything from £7.00 per kilo from the supermarket, there’s really no reason not to take a trip to the sea-side and forage for your own. Your best bet is to go mussel picking in any month with an ‘R’ in it (i.e. September to April) and head to the more rocky beaches for the best crop.
When you come across your chosen mussel bed, simply twist and pull them from the rocks. And why not eat alfresco ? Light a fire and wait till its smouldering, then place your mussels on a bed of seaweed straight onto the fire and cook them right there on the beach. They will probably the freshest and tastiest mussels you will ever eat. If however there is a ‘no fires’ rule on the beach, take them home and whip up a nice sauce to cook them in.
OK. We can hear your excuses already: ‘Mussels, Samphire? I live in an inner-city concrete jungle!’. But whether you live in central London or on the Isle of Skye, you will never be far from a dandelion plant. Although we only see the yellow flowers in spring, the leaves can be found all year round and these are the best part. The youngest leaves are much tastier than the older leaves which can be very bitter so aim to grab these if you can.
There is SO much that you can do with them: add them to a salad (a popular use for them on the Continent); use as a vegetable (just cook it like spinach) or make them into a beer. Between September and March, if you pick the roots of the plant it’s pretty easy to make dandelion coffee as well. If you find the plants in spring, you can use the flowers to make dandelion wine. Yummy!
Giant Puffball Mushrooms
Larger than the average human head, these gigantic mushrooms are in season right now, littering our fields and forests. Something needs to be done. These mushrooms need to be eaten. You can help. Next time you’re out keep your eyes peeled for this giant breed. Your reward is your mushroom, and few better rewards can one find.
On a serious note, when foraging for these lovely mushrooms you need to make sure that you find edible ones. It’s pretty easy to get it right, just make sure that there are no spores on the skin (these are renowned for causing tummy bugs). When you open your giant puffball, you must also make sure that the inner flesh is pure white – if it’s brown or yellow, you’d better leave it.
When you have ensured that your mushroom is edible, remove the outer skin so that you’re left with the fleshy part. The best way to cook it is to fry it in a little butter. Amazingly it tastes kind of like an omelette, a mushroom-y omelette. And it’s completely free.
Common Stinging Nettle
There is absolutely no excuse for not taking advantage of the common stinging nettles that line every lane and pathway you walk down. Yes, those nasty plants that leave you with hundreds of extremely painful tiny white bumps are actually totally edible. Like the dandelion, it’s best to get these plants when they’re younger as the leaves are coarse and bitter when they’ve been around for a while (also, make sure you use gloves when harvesting!)
Not only can the common nettle be made into a tasty soup or conserve, it’s packed full of vital nutrients like iron and it aides relief of rheumatism and sciatica. It’s also thought that eating nettles produces a general toning effect on the body. What more would you want? It’s a free and organic natural food that will give you muscles to rival Pop-Eye and a physique that even David Gandy would envy.
*Mancunian Matters do not recommend anyone chooses to go and eat any of the above items.