Free food over here

A post about the joys of foraging!  I’ve been theoretically all into foraging for wild food since I started reading some pieces about it last year but, in practice, foraging expeditions were limited until recently to a few auld blackberries in the autumn.  It’s just so hard to know how to start when you’ve never done it before.  But then my very own CaveMammy (who is the antithesis of cave-life really, living as she does in a den of electronics and computing, but she appreciates the dirt-under-the-fingernails lifestyle from an acceptable distance) bought me a copy of Wild Food for my birthday and I came over all committed to the project again.  The book’s a really nice read and describes the main types of wild food that can be gathered in Ireland over the year and gives loads of details on how they can be recognised, collected, eaten and preserved.  A good one to have on the shelf.

So first stop – wild garlic.  I was lucky enough to be out with a friend who had previously gathered and eaten it because I would have been very doubtful otherwise about picking a clump of stuff what had grown all by itself and putting it in my dinner.  The season for wild garlic is just about over now unfortunately but when it’s out it is plentiful!  This is what it looks like up close:

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And here is CaveBaby gathering some in the Phoenix Park:

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You can eat the leaves, stalks and flowers although some people apparently find the garlic flavour from the flowers too strong.  On our first trip we picked a big bagful (see artful arrangement in bowl below)

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and I used it as filling along with bacon pieces and some cheese in a crustless quiche (which, by the way, is not an omelette as it is cooked in the oven so nah).  The basic crustless quiche recipe is here but I just used cheddar in place of the recommended cheeses.  And it was seriously to die for tasty.  The texture of the wild garlic leaves means that they stand in as a kind of spinach substitute in the dish but also gave it a gorgeous garlicky flavour.  I mean look at this, how could you resist this?!!

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On the same day I’d decided to go hell for leather and harvest some dandelions for dandelion fitters as well, inspired by this great post from the daily spud.  CaveHusband was dubious.  He was tentatively agreeing to eat the wild garlic but was threatening to put the foot down at flower heads.  I pressed on and sent CaveBoy out the back garden with a scissors to cut off six of the best.  Unfortunately it was evening and they’d started to close up a bit and so they didn’t look anywhere near as pretty as the daily spudsis ones but I said we’d give it a lash anyway.  Here they are sizzling in a little batter:

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I served them and, by dint of what I call infectious enthusiasm and CaveHusband calls smiley-faced bullying, I managed to convince him AND CaveBoy to try.  CaveBoy was actually quite swept away with my talking-up of the whole thing (he trusts me, bless him) and bit in happily with an mmm, isn’t that nice dad?.  A few chews later and he politely said you know I don’t think I want to finish this one mammy.  This is how trust is eroded I guess.  CaveHusband actually said he didn’t mind them and I think he may have had a second.  The rest were all mine.  I thought they were quite tasty but then, most things deep fried in batter are.

We went on another foraging trip to the Phoenix Park shortly after and this time we collected a big old bag of the wild garlic leaves plus some nettle tips.

nettles

None of us were quite sure what we were doing with the nettles but the Wild Food book said to take the youngest little parts at the top so that we did.  With gloves and scissors of course!  I had popped CaveBaby up on to my back in the sling while we were gathering as he was being exceedingly uncooperative with regards to staying within a safe distance and not jumping off a cliff.  I must say, crouching down in a forested area, gathering wild food for your dinner, with a child slung to your back, makes you feel quite primal.  This was an intense Cave moment.

I had inspiration from the book to preserve some of the garlic in oil, make some wild garlic pesto and do up a nettle, garlic and potato soup.  So that evening CaveHusband came home to a crazy kitchen with its walls dripping in steam: kilner jars were bubbling away in boiling water to be sterilised, the soup was simmering on the back burner, there were bowls of chopped garlic leaves waiting to be submerged in olive oil for preserving and the food processor was going ninety chopping up hazelnuts, garlic leaves and cheese for the pesto.  He said nothing and walked back out.  Wise move.

And here are some of the fruits of the madness (be warned, there is much greenness).

The preserved garlic

preserved garlic

The wild garlic pesto (really strong and fresh tasting)

pesto

And the nettle and garlic soup which was DELICIOUS.

nettle soup

And that’s the foraging round-up for the minute.  The book talks about some seaweed varieties that can be gathered all year round on rocky shores so I may take a coastal scavenge soon.  Also elderflower has just come into season and I’ve heard tell of a recipe for elderflower champagne which sounds just gorgeous so am hoping to experiment with that.  The menu for garden parties at the Cave this summer will be … different.

Love, from a patch of forest and free food near you xx

CaveMammy

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