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Spring Foraging: Three Cornered Leek

29 Apr 20

by Susannah Phillipson

 

During this time of restriction, one of the few freedoms we can find is in the natural world. For me, foraging and cooking with all the bounty outside is a kind of therapy for me. It says:

Things ARE changing, in beautiful ways

 

Nature is like my positive news update. Far from the death tolls and scare stories in the media, when I look closely in the wild corners of the Salisbury Centre garden, or indeed any of the green spaces around Edinburgh I see other news stories:

 

The young beech leaves are here! Nibble away at a tree near you!

Burdock shoots have arrived in Holyrood! Stirfry your way to a happy Sunday!” 

The thriving new growth among Ednburgh’s stinging nettle community invite all residents to share in their powers of strength and nutrition!”

 

It’s just the most exciting time of year to me, as a keen wild-eater: Every week there’s something new to appreciate, celebrate, and chomp on. I am very lucky to be a resident of the Salisbury Centre during lockdown, harvesting and cooking from the over-wintered greens in the garden, but in fact much – if not most – of what we are cooking comes from the wild plants who have volunteered themselves to our garden, and can be found all around the city.

 

 So, I am here to share some of my latest foraging fun with you all, and hopefully to inspire you with a few recipes! 

 

Three Cornered Leek: Destroy and Enjoy!

Three Cornered Leek (also known as few-flowered leek) is a very delicious but very naughty invasive plant in the UK, that often takes over and crowds out Wild Garlic’s territory. If you have ever been to Roslyn Glen at this time of year you will have seen the two competing for floor-space in the woodland: Wild garlic with its broader leaves, and Three Cornered Leek growing long and thin leaves with a distinctive ‘corner’ up the middle. If you don’t know these plants already, you will find them with your nose! The whole of both plants are edible – roots, stems, leaves and flowers.

 

We have this problem in the Salisbury Centre garden, with T.C.L colonising many of the flower beds, and not leaving room for other wild or cultivated plants, Wild Garlic included. So, over the past few weeks we residents have been on ‘Mission: Destroy and Enjoy’ – pulling them up, and bringing them into the kitchen. The trouble is, there’s so much! We would get sick of it if we ate it every day… so, what to do? Preserve this taste of spring for later on in the year, in any way we can! 

 

I found 3 great recipes for preserving this plant, which I encourage you to try! You’ll have to be quick though (and I’d encourage going to more shaded areas where the plants are slower growing), as their season is almost over! The recipes are written for Wild Garlic, but I would encourage using T.L.C if you have some growing near you, as Wild Garlic is struggling from over-harvesting in the UK. If you do use Wild Garlic, be sure not to pull up the roots, and harvest sparingly so that the plant can regenerate.

Fermented Three Cornered Leek / Wild Garlic

https://www.eatweeds.co.uk/fermented-wild-garlic-recipe

 

This is super easy, and all you need is a big pile of leaves and some salt!

 

Wash and chop 1kg leaves, sprinkle on 2tbsp sea salt, and massage rigorously for about 10 minutes, as they magically break down and create the most amazing, witches-potion green liquid! Weigh down with a plate and something heavy for 24 hours in a bowl, and then pack into clean jars, making sure that all the leaves are submerged. Taste in a week, but it will get better over a month, and keeps for ages!

 

Pickled Three Cornered Leek / Wild Garlic buds and roots

https://thegreedyvegan.com/pickled-wild-garlic/

 

This recipe is for pickling the buds in apple cider vinegar (my mouth waters just thinking about it!), but we also pickled the open flowers and the root bulbs… Although this was an immensely fiddly task that requires several good podcasts to get you through cleaning off all the mud and debris! Please only take roots from the T.L.C, NOT Wild Garlic! I spoke to our gardener Alan, and he said it is ok to pick and pickle some of the Wild Garlic buds though, as they mostly reproduce through bulb division.

All you need is enough vinegar to cover everything in the jar, a couple of spoons of sugar, and a few herbs and spices to make it more interesting: We used mustard seeds, peppercorns, fennel leaves, and a few other bits and bobs we had in the kitchen.

 

Three Cornered Leek Kimchi

https://www.eatweeds.co.uk/wild-garlic-kimchi

This is the one I’m most excited about, and this time Ben (my partner) wasn’t helping so much so he had clean hands to take photos for me!

Step 1: Gather your ingredients and equipment:

 

  • A knife, chopping board and grater
  • Weighing scales, a tablespoon and jars/jar

 

Essentials (per 1kg leaves):

  • 150g daikon/mouli (the big white root! You can get it in oriental supermarkets)
  • 75g Korean coarse red pepper flakes (you can also find in oriental supermarkets)
  • 3tbsp grated ginger
  • 2tbsp sea salt

 

Less essential / substitutable (per 1kg leaves)

  • 1tbsp Ume Shiso (fermented plum seasoning (sold at Real Foods and New Leaf))
  • 2tbsp dried sea lettuce sprinkles (I reckon you could use any flaked seaweed, or omit)

Step 2: Harvest and prepare your Three Cornered Leek

A fully packed and o’erbrimming mixing bowl is about 0.5kg, to give you an idea, and 1kg of leaves makes about 1.5L kimchi

Wash, clearing out any debris and unwanted plants, and roughly chop it

Step 3: Make your kimchi paste

Grate the daikon and ginger, and mix with the red pepper flakes, sea salt, and ume shisho and seaweed (if using)

Step 4: Massage this paste into your Three Cornered Leek

 

If you are doing 1kg leaves or less, one big mixing bowl will be enough space, and you can just add more leaves as they break down (they shrink loads). Keep pummeling, pressing and squeezing them until there’s quite a bit of liquid – enough to cover the leaves once they’re in jars.

Step 5: Pack your kimchi into jars!

Make sure you squash it down lots, so it’s completely submerged. Taste after a week, it will get better over a month, and should keep for many more!

Let us know if you give any of these a try on our Salisbury Centre Community Facebook Page, and I will write again soon, with ideas for cooking some favourite spinach recipes substituting in wild greens!

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