Eating healthily doesn’t have to be expensive. Eating seasonal and local keeps the cost down. And what could be cheaper than foraging for some food to add to your plate? There’s something special about picking your own food – and even more special when you haven’t had to pay for or grow it! Nature’s larder is a fascinating world of wild foods, often far superior in flavour and nutritional content than shop bought, cultivated or farmed foods.
Foraging doesn’t have to be reserved for specialists. Three easy to find, and identify, spring ingredients are wild garlic, stinging nettles and dandelions.
Before you read on, please go and carefully read our pages about dangerous plants and make sure you know how to identify and avoid them!
Wild garlic is found in damp, shady locations in March and April. It looks very similar to lily of the valley, which is toxic – but the smell is unmistakable. Crush between your fingers and the smell of garlic will hit you. Wild garlic can be added to stir fries, omelettes, sautéed greens or added to salad dressings.
Stinging nettles can be found anywhere. However choose your location wisely away from traffic fumes or places where dogs might have been. March and April is the best time to pick this. Wear thick protective gloves and pick the top tender shoots. Nettles can be added to your morning smoothie, or added to soups and stir fries or even made into a tea.
Dandelions are easy to spot with their distinctive yellow flowers. Try combining dandelion leaves with other bitter leaves, such as watercress and rocket in a simple green salad with olive oil and apple cider vinegar before a main meal to help with digestion. The dandelion root can also be dried and made into a tea to help with digestive problems.
Next season’s countryside foraging
If you have missed out on spring foraging then don’t forget late summer when blackberries, elderberries and sloe will be ready. All are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants and are amazing in crumbles, or mixed in a porridge or smoothie. Or how about experimenting with homemade Sloe Gin?
- If there’s any doubt over what you are picking then use caution and don’t pick. It could be rare, protected, inedible or even poisonous.
- Forage sustainably – only forage in plentiful supplies – and leave some for others and also the wildlife.
- Minimise damage to nearby habitats and species.
- Don’t take more than you plan to eat.
- Don’t trespass. Seek landowner’s permission on private land.
- Wash your bounty very well when you get it home to remove any pesticides or other nasties.
Forager’s Pesto Recipe
1 large handful of wild garlic
2 large handfuls of stinging nettle tips
1 large handful of parsley
11 large brazil nuts (or could use almonds if you prefer)
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (or juice of 1 lemon)
Salt and pepper
- Blitz all the ingredients together in a food processor slowly drizzling in the olive oil as you go until the mixture reaches an even consistency. It will keep in the fridge for a week or you could freeze in an ice cube tray.
- You could serve this with brown rice pasta or alongside grilled chicken or try topping a piece of wild salmon with the pesto and baking in the oven.
The Health Boost Tip
Wild garlic is packed with beta-carotene, vitamin C iron, phosphorus and copper – and is good for helping to lower blood pressure. Nettles are packed with vitamin C.
Kat is due to qualify as a nutritional therapist in July 2017. She set up The Health Boost with a friend to prove that healthy eating is achievable for everyone – even time-poor busy families – and doesn’t have to be expensive. More of their recipes can be found on their website.