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
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.
Even though it is the dead of winter there are still plenty of things to find if you go foraging out and about. Common hogweed is often found along rivers so in Birmingham UK there is a good chance you can find this plant. Right now, even though the hogweed plants have long since been dead, thier seeds are remaining. They cling on to the dead plant material and are easy to spot as they tower above everything else right now. There wont be as many seeds as there were at the end of the previous year when they just ripened, but they will be there still and with this little wild spice – a little goes a long way!
These seeds are a great addition to your wild kitchen spice cupboard. They taste like a combination of cardamon and orange peel and have a very strong kick to them. I often encourage people to taste these as they go on our walks – and caution them that they only need one seed to try out. It’s powerful stuff!
Because of this, you can harvest very little and it will last you a long time. Which is just as well because there is SO much you can do with these! Thier unqiue flavour lends them to a variety of recipes including making your own gin compounds, herbal teas (pair with fennel), spiced biscuits, spiced cakes, pickling flavouring and more. A quick google will give you a wealth of ideas to choose from.
Common hogweed should be roughly as tall as you, and the seeds are flat discs of paper with two little seeds showing on one side and four on the other, like little brown lines.
Location: Anywhere, usually grass verges, pathcracks, fields and park pathways
Months: All year round
Edible Parts: Leaves, Seeds
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.
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.
Primrose! The lovely little five petal delicate flower we love to have in our gardens – is totally edible! Both leaves and flowers can be eaten, but Primrose tea is made from the leaves.
You can use the leaves fresh or dry them out and store them for future use.
Fill a tea strainer with leaves, and then let it steep in hot water for a few minutes. The water will turn a pale green colour. This tea tastes liek an everyday geenric herb tea – it doesn’t have any kind of real flavour to it. I added the primrose flowers to the top of my glass to liven it up a bit and improve the flavour and content. This means you get a wonderful nose full of the smell of flowers everytime you take a sip too, which is highly relaxing!
In the early days of medicine, the Primrosewas considered an important remedy in muscular rheumatism, paralysis and gout. The herb has sedative propoerties.
Not to be mistaken for other similar varieties and cross cultivators (evening primrose – also made into teas and tinctures, cowslip, oxlip).
These jelly ears were found in a man made wood consisting of Pine, Fir/Spruce and Elder. Jelly ears are commonly found on dead elder trees and here was no exception. For help identifying Jelly Ears for yourself you can also check out of Jelly Ear Identification post.
For comparison here is a picture of some of the jelly ears I found yesterday both fresh and old.