Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Big Barn Newsletter 31 July 2007

I've been writing a foraging column for the email newsletter of bigbarn.co.uk, the excellent local food portal website. As I've been a bit busy recently and have been neglecting my blog, I'm going to post the articles here.

Opportunity Knocks!
The heavy rains of the last few months are proving a mixed blessing for foragers... on the one hand, there are plenty of lush greens such as lawn daisy, fat hen, sow thistle and common mallow still around, on the other, edible mushrooms such as puffballs, and fairy ring champignons are definitely not enjoying these wet conditions. Summer fruits such as blackberries and bullace plums, gorged on rain, can be a bit watery and prone to splitting. But foraging is opportunity driven, and my tips this month will help you make the best of what's available.

Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris)
The showy purple blossoms of this lovely plant continue in profusion. If you look along the flower stems, you might find a few green seeds: peel off the calyx (the green, papery bits below the seed) , they make a pleasant nutty flavoured trail snack. If you have the patience to collect a handful, try roasting them in a tiny bit of olive oil to bring out the sweet nuttiness. I like them as a salad sprinkle or scattered into a sandwich. Young mallow leaves can be given the spinach treatment, washed and cooked gently over a low heat in a little butter. The more adventurous might like to try this recipe for Melokhia, a traditional middle eastern dish full of warm, spicy flavours.

Dewberries (Rubus caesius)
If, like me, you've found plenty of fat but blandly flavoured blackberries, hunt around for the blackberry's smaller cousin, the dewberry. The plant looks like a weedier, less robust blackberry plant and tends to grow lower to the ground. The fruits are just three or four berry segments which are covered in a dense bloom, giving them a bright blue-purple appearance. Despite their small size, they pack a good acidity punch and a small handful will perk up a dish of watery blackberries a treat!

Mallow: Essential foraging facts
  • Choose fully green seeds only, and discard any which are starting to turn brown.
  • Avoid mallow plants infested with rust virus, shown by bright orange spots on the leaves and stems.
  • The older leaves may produce a harmless but slightly slimy result when cooked, simply rinse the cooked leaves in fresh water to remove it if not to your liking.
  • Best quality leaves are the young ones to be found by reaching down into the centre of the plant.
  • Avoid collecting from busy roadsides.
  • Be mindful of the Countryside Code when out foraging.

No comments: