Jack by the Hedge

Jack by the hedge, otherwise known as Hedge Garlic or sometimes even just wild garlic – is actually not a garlic at all!

Name: Alliaria Petiolata

Location: Anywhere, usually grass verges, woodlands and tucked alongside hedges

Months: March to September

Edible Parts: Leaves, Flowers, Seeds

More Information

Hedge Garlic is a member of the mustard family – hence it’s familiar flavour and smell that reminds us of garlics. There are actually quite a few plants that could be called under the common name ‘wild garlic’ so it’s important to be able to differentiate between them. Hedge garlic is quite distinctive with its beautifully shaped lobed leaves. It’s a more delicate flavour than actual alliums provide so it’s more suitable for delicate touches of garlic/mustard flavouring such as in salads eaten fresh.

Foraging Plantain

Name: Plaintain, Ribwort (Plantago)

Location: Anywhere, usually grass verges, pathcracks, fields and park pathways

Months: All year round

Edible Parts: Leaves, Seeds

Placeholder image of plantain

More Information

Plantain is a common wild edible found all over the UK. The three main types in the UK are Major, Media and Lanceolata but coastal regions will also discover maritima and ponds/lakes may be blessed with Aquata. Plantain has trade mark ‘ribs’ (hence the name ribwort) along the underside of the leaf which are the prominent veins of the leaf. they run parrallell along the leaf and do not intersect. When the leaf is pulled apart the stringy material inside the vein is revealed.

Plantain is not only edible (best eaten when young and fresh) but it is also used in herbal medicine as it is packed full of anti histamines. this makes it useful as herbal tea to treat hayfever or infused in oil to treat stings and other skin reactions – in particular nettle stings.

The seeds of plantain are highly nurtitious if you catch them at the right time of year.

Check out our 51 seasonal plants poster to make sure you stay on top of harvest seasons for common wild plants.

How to Make a Plantain Oil Infusion (for topical use)

Collect your plantain leaves (any variety) and roughly chop.

Spread the leaves our on a tray and dry them out, Ideally you would use a dehydrator at 45 degrees or less for this task but if you do not have one then you can sun dry or use your oven on its lowest setting with the door ajar. Be careful not to burn the leaves (they will turn brown is overheated).

Once fully dried, stuff as many leaves as you can into a clean dry sterile jar. Then top up with olive oil (or another base food grade oil) and ensure the leaves are submerged and there are no air gaps.

Leave in a cool dark place for 3-6 months to infuse. Strain before use.

Dandelion September Membership Card

Here is the digital version of our September plant highlight for 2020 which was Common Dandelion!

This is exclusive member only content so if you can see this, it’s because you are a valued member of Sustainable Life Voluntary Organisation – so thank you!

Elder Flowers June Info Card

Posted on May 1, 2020 by admin

Here is the digital version of our June plant highlight for 2020 which was Elder flowers!

This is exclusive member only content so if you can see this, it’s because you are a valued member of Sustainable Life Voluntary Organisation – so thank you!

Poppy Seeds

Name: Poppy Seeds

Location: Gardens, Parks, Sidewalks

Months: June, July August

Edible Parts: Seeds

Caution: Make sure you correctly identify the poppy flower before proceeding.

11707669_10153431218346774_2369336470591199918_nPoppies of all sizes and colours make wonderful nutrient rich seeds to add a little extra to your cooking.

11009351_10153431218326774_1672489493683074233_nAfter the flowers have bloomed the pod develops and then dries out. All you have to do is tip it over and the seeds will pour out of the holes at the top of the pod.

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Yarrow

Name: Yarrow

Location: Grassy areas, short grass or long

Months: All Year Round

Edible Parts: Leaves, flowers

 

11233555_10153264774586774_8925260634467739934_nWhile this is a picture of Yarrow on my allotment, I can assure you this plant grows everywhere and you are as likely to come across it as you are to find docks or dandelions. Often hidden in short grass the plant Yarrow can appear to be horizontal for most of the year only revealing itself by a few well trodden on curls of leaves in parks and pathway grass. However, at this time of year it also starts to grow upwards as it attempts to throw out some flowers and it can get very tall in the right location.

The leaves and flowers of Yarrow are used in salads and yarrow oil is also used in shampoo. Some people chew on yarrow to relieve toothache. In the garden it makes an excellent compost activator. Medicinal uses include easing the symptoms of fever, colds, gastrointestinal issues including IBS symptoms and to induce sweating.

 

WARNING: Do not consume excessive amounts, may contain thujone, cause drowsiness and increase urination. For some people, it can also cause a skin irritation.

Borage

Name: Borage

Location: Grassy areas, plots, gardens, forest floors

Months: All Year Round

Edible Parts: Flowers, Leaves

WARNING: Not to be confused with Foxglove and Comfrey.
Foxglove – feel the leaves, are they soft and fur like? If so then you probably found foxglove before it flowered which is poisonous.
Comfrey – Flowers are purple instead of blue. Comfrey is the perrenial version of borage which is annual.

 

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Borage works much like Comfrey in the compost bin as a brilliant plant stimulant for leafy growth. However, it is also considered an edible herb with tasty crisp leaves (if a bit furry). Some report they taste liek cucumber but I am less convinced. The flowers are also edible and as such make a brilliant garnish and addition to salad mixes.

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Collected leaves and flowers from the borage plants on my allotment. Many garden shops now sell borage seeds to grow yourself and they excellent plants for attracting bees.

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Borage leaves and flowers used to boost the contents and appearance of Elderflower cordial. I found that in this mixture the leaves slowly turn neon pink from the tips inward creating a pleasing and pretty drink garnish.

Camomile

What at first glance looks like a barren field with a few daisies actually turns out to be a little field full of camomile.

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Name: Camomile

Location: Grassy areas

Months: April, May, June July

Edible Parts: Flowers

 

They look like tall slender daisies with feathery leaves. The yellow center is bulbous and smells strongly of camomile. Smell some camomile tea if you are unsure of what that smells like! The smell is very distinctive and unmistakable.

 

Mahonia – Oregon Grape

Mahonia

Name: Oregon Grape

Location: The berry of the Mahonia, typically American but often found across the UK in posh gardens particularly in new build areas.

Months: June, July, August

Edible Parts: Berries

Non-Edible Parts: Anything else

The Mahonia Bush as pictured above is filled with sharp holly like leaves. As such people tend to stay away from the berries mistaking them for poisonous holly berries. The bushes typically look around this size in the UK with the same twisty wood at the base and a fluffy head of not so fluffy leaves. The berries look powdery blue like Sloes but are grouped together in long string bunches similar to grapes. The berries themselves are often said to be a bit too tart for raw eating but having now tried them myself I would say they are only slightly tart and quite sweet and full flavoured. In fact I was licking my red fingers all the way home enjoying the taste. Mahonia berries can be used to make jams and wine as with most berries. You will not be dissapointed with flavour.

oregon grape oregon grape

One last tip to leave you with as we learned this the hard way: BRING GLOVES when harvesting. The leaves HURT and the juice STAINS. Ouch!

Juice Soaked hands

How to Produce your Own Salt

salt

Salt is one of our most important minerals for the human body but in the wild, it’s pretty hard to find in every day foraging. The coastal region is a massive resource for fresh salt whether it’s from the various food stuffs found from the coast or from harvesting the sea itself. Best of all, creating your own salt from the sea can be done all year round!

Salt isn’t as complicated and scary as you might first think. The way I will teach you how to produce your own salt from the sea today is pretty much exactly how large companies do it, there is no special secret you don’t know about.

Ingredients

 

  • Sea Water – Try to find a certified clean water area for the best and cleanest results!

Method

Collect around 5 Litres of sea water if possible. I used a large water bottle for this to get as much as I could.

Sift the Sea Water through several layers of Muslin. Repeat several times.

Allow the water to stand for a week and you may see a bit of excess dirt form on the bottom still. Siphon off the clean water from the top (as much as possible without disturbing the dirt at the bottom) using plastic tube (see homebrewing for help). Sieve through several layers of muslin again.

Boil off as much water as possible so that you are left with around 1 litre of water left at the most. Now your water beyond this point will begin to make salt so to avoid the salt burning on the bottom of the pan you should set up a gentle cooking system like this:

salt

This is a large pan with around 30-50% water in it on the lowest heat setting on the hob. A metal bowl has placed on the top with the sea water in it. As you can see, after a few hours your water will disappear and you will be left with super strong salt! You may find your salt colour can vary from white to brown, it all depends on where you got the sea water from and the water quality. This salt has been produced from Morecambe and produced finer salt than I expected!

 

 

salt

 

Next, loosen the salt form the edge of the bowl and leave it to air dry in a warm dry location like a windowsill. This will take a very long time but it prevents burning and allows the salt to dry properly for safe storage.