Growing Conditions: It is a perennial that grows in damp woods and on shady banks throughout Britain.
Regeneration is primarily by seed. Generally lowland, but reaching c. 450m at Great Clowder, Malham (Mid-W. Yorks.).
The leaves grow from the root on separate long stems, they are bright green in colour and form extensive colonies that flourish in white during late spring.
The smell of garlic is unmistakable!
Growing conditions: It grows abundantly in far too many places! It flourishes throughout Britain, Europe, most of Asia, North America, South Africa and Japan. It grows in river valleys, mountainsides, and almost every farmyard, hedgerow, roadside, wood, churchyard, ruined buildings and patch of waste grounds.
Growing Period: It flowers from May to October but should be picked by the beginning of May as leaves become hard and bitter in taste during summer. The best time to collect them is when the shoots are just a few centimetres long.
Nettle contains iron, formic acid, ammonia, silicic acid and histamine.
It’s known for having properties to relieve symptoms of rheumatism, sciatica, increase the haemoglobin in the blood and improve circulation. It’s Also known to lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Growing Conditions/period: Common to southern England, Gorse is an evergreen shrub with green leaves shaped like conifer needles and brilliant yellow flowers that grow up to 2 metres / 6 ft tall in rough grassy places, particularly by the sea. In spite of its tough appearance, it is not able to stand an exceptionally hard winter. The bright yellow, coconut-perfumed flowers take the shape of pea blossoms and grow at the end of the gorse branches. The mature branches have conspicuous spines.
Gorse bush facts suggest that the shrub is a legume, a member of the pea family. They form compact shrubs, sufficiently dense and spiny to create an impassable hedge.
Raw edible parts: The bright yellow flowers can be eaten raw and can be made into a tea. The buds can be pickled and used like capers. Gorse is a useful wild food as it flowers continually all year round.
Issues: Do not eat flowers in very large quantities on a regular basis as they contain slightly toxic alkaloids. Do not let this put you off! The long pods and dark seeds are not edible either raw or cooked.
Other info: Gorse is a useful native shrub. It is a pioneer species and a nitrogen fixer feeding the soil and other plants around it. The wood can be used as fuel and works well as kindling as it burns quickly and high temperatures. The Wood ash is rich in potassium and can be used to make a lye for making soap or to enrich the soil. A yellow dye can be made from the flowers and roots.
Since it is thorny it often presents an impenetrable barrier to both people and animals. It will usually tolerate the grazing habits of deer and rabbits, although this may depend on how hungry the animals are. The flowers produce pollen in the autumn, winter and spring when little else is in flower and is therefore important to bees and other pollinating insects.
Growing Conditions: Elder is a small shrub common all over the British Isles and Europe. It grows in woods, hedgerows, downlands and waste places. The flowers are very sweetly fragrant and appear in early summer. Each flower has five white petals and five pale yellow anthers.
The flowers turn to berries which are green at first, then ripen to a shining purplish-black in early autumn, they hang in heavy clusters and are very popular with birds.
Fun fact: Because of the legend that the Cross was made from elder wood and that Judas Iscariot was hanged from an elder tree, people were afraid to cut elders from hedges, and gipsies avoided burning the wood in their fires.
In addition to being a great food source, it has medicinal properties being scientifically proved to be effective in cases of bronchitis and respiratory troubles. Its leaves can be used as an insecticide and its bark, root, leaves and berries can make natural dye.
Source: Edible wild plants and herbs, a compendium of recipes and remedies. Pamela Michael. Grub Street, London. 2015.
DOG ROSE (Rosa Canina), FEILD ROSE (Rosa Arvensis), SWEETBRIAR (Rosa Rubiginosa), DOWNY ROSE (Rosa Tomentosa)
All roses are edible and no part of them is poisonous.
We have at least 13 species of wild rose in Britain.
Rosehip syrup made from the dog-rose has four times the Vitamin C of blackcurrant juice and twenty times as much as orange juice.
Growing Conditions: It is rare in the north of Scotland but common in the rest of the UK where the temperature does not reach such extremes.
A true wild species is a small deciduous tree that flowers in May and has some spines on the twigs and branches. During full blossom, its fragrant and fragile flowers are usually crowded with enthusiastic bees.
The small fruit of the wild crab is yellowish green and in bunches. Fruit varies in size from as small as a cherry to quite sizeable small apples with a reddish flush. The apples can be picked from August to November but are normally at their best at the end of September or early October.
Bartholomew Anglicus noted this fact in his 15th-century encyclopaedia:
“The apples ripen in early autumn and the ground beneath the trees may be littered with them. One should wait until they fall, as they are difficult to pick from the tree, and not fully ripe until they drop”.
Fun fact: The sourness of it gives rise to the expression ‘a crab’ or ‘crabby’, meaning an ill-tempered person (sour as a crab apple).
Growing Conditions: It grows in woods, scrubs, hedges and heaths. The plant grows fast, throwing out strong thorn-clad stems which bend over as their length increases. Where these stems touch the ground, they put out little roots from which fresh stems grow.
Growing period: The blackberry flowers from May to September and bears fruit from August to November. The largest and sweetest are the ones at the tip which ripen first. However, as temperature drops, the fruit become watery and tasteless. Therefore, it is not recommended to pick it up after the end of October.
Fun facts: There is evidence that blackberries were in England as far back as Neolithic times as pips where found in the stomach contents of a Stone Age man dug out of the clay on the Essex coast.
Makes 6 x 500 ml jars (or use these proportions)
4 kg crab apples
1 kg caster sugar
The juice of 1 lemon
- Wash the apples, removing any bruised fruit. Put in a saucepan, fill with water to just cover the apples.
- Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit is soft (about 30 minutes).
- Pour the pulp into a jelly bag or several layers of muslin and let drip overnight into a pan. Do NOT squeeze the bag or it will make the juice cloudy.
- The next day, measure the juice, and add sugar in the ratio of 10 parts juice to 7 of sugar. Add some lemon juice, then bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Keep at a rolling boil for 40 minutes, skimming off the froth. To test the set, chill a dessertspoon in the refrigerator.
- When the jelly is set, it will solidify on the back of the spoon. Pour into warm, sterilised preserving jars and tightly seal while still slightly warm. Store in a cool dark place.
Recipe shared by Mila Campoy