Spring is finally here and many early flowers blooming away… yes you can eat many.
Primroses are edible (see pic). Pick the flowers and discard the green part at the base of the flower and eat the buds too. The whole plant is edible but do identify it by the flowers as leaves from Foxglove can look similar and are deadly poisonous. Don’t pick wild primroses in woodlands as they are protected and avoid any flowers that have come straight from the garden centre and not established for a couple of years as they are given chemicals solely to produce flowers ready for sale. Daffodils are also edible and taste like they smell if you eat the stamen laden with pollen too. Otherwise the petals of both these flowers are quite tasteless but this doesn’t mean that you’re not eating vitamins and minerals. Sprinkle them on tops of salads, float on top of soup and decorate your bowl of noodles and pasta with them.
Tulip flowers are also edible but remove the centre stamen, the tips of the petals can also be bitter. “They can have many flavours: Bland, beans, peas, and cucumbers. Pink, peach and white blossoms are the sweetest, red and yellow the most flavourful. While you can use them to garnish salads their more common use is to hold appetizers or dip” But a word of caution for tulips as it can be poisonous to some people. The above extract is from a very interesting article on Eat the Weeds talking about tulip bulbs as ‘famine food’ and how to prepare them. Proceed with caution and do let me know your thoughts.
Hawthorn is one of the first leaves to appear in the hedgerow. You’ll recognise the dangles of red berries in the autumn and we’ll revisit Hawthorn later in the year. Hawthorn is also ‘food for the heart’ and used for treating heart and circulatory conditions, especially angina. The very young leaves, known as bread and cheese, are good in a salad. They have a nutty flavour and are especially good mixed with beetroot.
Nettles are available all year round but great when young. I don’t think I need to tell you how to ID them! They can be cooked and eaten like spinach and have a similar taste but a little rougher. The tips can be picked and steeped immediately to make a fresh tea (or tisane I should say). I regularly make Nettle soup, a clear soup using miso as the stock. Sweat some onions and leeks (also in season now) add garlic and miso to taste and some water to make the stock and add a (gloved!) handful of nettle leaves. If you’re not keen on miso then use your regular stock. Nettles are high in protein and rich in vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium, and totally FREE!
Brambles are a bit of a scourge for gardeners but no longer as you can eat them. You’ll start to see the young shoots appearing now and this is the bit to pick. Peel the stalks and boil them with 2 changes of water, chop them up to add to your nettle soup above. Dried leaves can be used for tea. And I’ve been told that bramble leaves are good to ferment (like sauerkraut) but I haven’t tried it. Let me know if you have a recipe for that. We’ll visit brambles again later in the year and not just for the blackberries!
If you’re more adventurous you can try your hand at harvesting sap from Birch trees. If you’re lucky enough to have one in your garden, great! A little more tricky out in the wilds or in a public spot. I confess that I’ve never done it but I’m searching for an appropriate tree to start. I recommend reading how to do it from Fergus, my favourite wild food expert.
So happy foraging!
Do let me know how you get along and do search on the web for more information.