Saturday 16 January
by Susannah Phillipson
Following on from my last blog, Spring Foraging: Three Cornered Leek, I am back with more ideas for making delicious things with the wild harvest.
Living at the Salisbury Centre we have the privilege of being able to continue celebrating the wheel of the year festivals at the well-loved fire pit in the garden, and last week we were celebrating Beltane – welcoming in the summer – which Olga has written about here. We decided to enjoy the long evening by cooking our dinner outside on the fire, which inspired much creativity and appreciation of all the tasty things growing outside!
While the flames were hot, we picked some bunches of dandelions and wild garlic flowers to make fritters – a recipe taught to me by my teenage cousin which is absolutely delicious! Of course you don’t have to cook these on a fire, all you need is a pan, some cooking oil, flour, flowers, and something delicious to dip them in… We just dipped ours in sea salt this time, but sweet chili dipping sauce is delicious, or you can try them sweet dipped in honey or maple syrup!
Wild Flower Fritters
There are many edible flowers, and I imagine you could use this same technique for wild greens as well. Dandelion fritters are lovely because the middle stays so soft while the outside is nice and crispy, and the wild garlic flowers were delicious with their sweet garlicky flavour! Later on in the season you can try it with elderflowers too…
What you need
A small-ish pan (the oil has to be 1cm deep so the bigger the pan the more oil you need)
Cooking oil (sunflower or rapeseed is good)
A bunch of edible flowers picked with long stalks (such as dandelion or wild garlic)
Dips of your choice (chilli dipping sauce for savoury, or honey/maple syrup for sweet are my favourites!)
What to do
All you do is mix up flour and water to the consistency of pancake batter. You can add other flavours into the batter if you like, such as salt and pepper for savoury, or vanilla extract and sugar for sweet.
Meanwhile, heat up about 1cm oil in a saucepan. When it’s good and hot, dunk your flower heads in the batter using their stalks like handles. Holding the stalks, put the flower heads into the hot oil, with the stalks standing up / dangling over the edge. There will be a lot of bubbling in the oil, so make sure you don’t get splashed!
When they begin to brown (it only takes a couple of minutes) take them out and place on kitchen roll to remove the excess oil.
Serve straight away, with dips of your choice!
My latest springtime foraging discovery is thanks to Olga, who has introduced me to eating hogweed shoots! They are abundant, delicious, and can be cooked like asparagus spears.
Now I must give a word of warning: One has to be very careful when foraging for hogweed, because it comes from the Umbelliferae family, which has quite a few very poisonous plants in it – including hogweed’s evil twin Giant Hogweed whose sap can give you a 3rd degree burn every time you go out in daylight for the next seven years!! Woah! Stay away from that one! Local authorities tend to remove Giant Hogweed from public areas, but Alan (the Salisbury Centre gardener) tells me he has seen it growing in Craigmillar Castle Park. You can read more about it here, including how to tell the difference between Giant Hogweed and other plants. Giant Hogweed and Common Hogweed have quite different leaves, so you can be pretty sure you’re dealing with the right plant even when they’re small, but later on in the season you can spot Giant Hogweed a mile off – it can grow up to three metres tall!
So, now I’ve warned you, let’s get on to the nice bit: Common Hogweed grows all over the place, and the shoots are so yummy! It’s such a welcome side to any dish, simply steamed (or lightly boiled) with some lemon juice squeezed on top. We have been harvesting them from around holyrood park, but you’ll find it everywhere – under trees, amongst bushes, in grassy areas…
The part you want is the young shoots. They are furry and look like little claws coming out of the ground!
This is the perfect size
This is the biggest you’d want to eat
Pick them low to the ground so that you get plenty of stalk. To cook, either steam or lightly boil them for a couple of minutes until they’re tender, squeeze some lemon over the top and serve!
I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with a recipe for a delicious nettle and sweet potato curry… watch this space!
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