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.
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.
While 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What at first glance looks like a barren field with a few daisies actually turns out to be a little field full of 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.
Fuchsia is a great flowering plant to have in your garden or allotment. For one thing the BEES love it! So if you are adding it to any area, bear this in mind and place it away from seating areas and preferably in the middle of crop plants to encourage the bees.
There are lots of different varieties of fuchsia – some have large flowers, and large berries and others are light pink or purple or fuchsia coloured! However, none of them are poisonous. Each different variety has it’s own flavour and sweetness so try them out and taste for yourself what kind of berry they produce before you buy to make sure you get a strain that suits you. Some are super sweet and some are a bit bitter and have an after taste.
I purchased this plant here for my new permaculture allotment because of the following key reasons:
You can eat the berries fresh or make them into jams etc
You can eat the flowers or use them as food decorations
They attract bees to your plot
They look pretty and add an extra edible dimension to a standard plot
Non-Edible Parts: The hardest part where it was attached to the wood
As with all mushrooms you gather do not pick unless you are absolutely sure. The chicken of the woods also does not agree with everyone and can cause tummy upset if not properly cooked through. Always try a little first to see if your digestive system likes it or not. The great thing about Chicken of the Woods is that it is quite meaty – like chicken – in texture. Chicken of the Woods is not hairy, so if you see a yellow lookalike that is hairy leave it alone.