This morning I joined a group of City of Edinburgh countryside rangers and volunteers who've been involved with the walled garden project at Hermitage of Braid for a session of foraging. I blogged here and here about the writing workshops I attended at the walled garden last year. The photo below shows what the walled garden looks like just now, all ready for planting!
Anna Canning of Floramedica took us on a walk round the Hermitage of Braid and along to Blackford Pond, identifying and picking plants that we would use in preparing lunch! We picked wild garlic, lesser celandines (the leaves are only edible when they're very young, once the plant starts flowering the leaves become inedible), bittercress, nettles and sorrel.
Anna told us about the medicinal uses of these plants and gave us advice on when to pick them if we want to eat them and how to serve them. I've got a Botany degree, but it was heavily weighted towards biochemistry and the internal workings of plants and though my field botany is reasonably good it's not brilliant (though every year it improves dramatically once plants start flowering!). I'm also trying to learn about foraging but am still a real beginner so I found this session really interesting.
After we had picked a fair amount of plant material, we went back into the rangers centre and prepared lunch: potato salad with wild garlic and the most delicious pesto made from a mixture of all the herbs we had gathered (basically you can make a good pesto with the leaves of any edible herb).
Served with organic brown bread, a delicious Ninemaidens Mead and tea made from sticky willy (also known as goose grass or cleavers), The tea was very tasty and also pretty in colour!
I'm currently reading Richard Mabey's book Weeds (which contains quite a lot of information about the history of foraging and which I'll review at a future date) and studying A Handbook of Scotland's Wild Harvests (I attended the book launch for this!) in preparation for a year of teaching myself at least a bit of foraging.
The real challenge with urban foraging is to avoid dog dirt, it's something that I find really affects my attitude to picking wild plants (that and feeling I'm stealing food from the birds and wild animals, though in the case of really weedy plants like nettles and brambles, that's not really an issue as they grow so fast).
If you're interested in foraging in Scotland, you can find out quite a lot from the Scottish Wild Harvests Association and if you're looking for inspiration for recipes try the Eat Weeds website.
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