Food for Free
Just had a great walk in the woodland and hills behind Slad Farm looking for opportunities to nibble nature's bounty. The walk was guided by Stroud's improvement on Ray Mears, Dan Gordon-Lee, an ecologist who is part of the Transition Food Group.
The walk was part of the Stroud Slad Farm open day. This is Stroud's second CSA and something to be really proud of. The ceilidh is yet to come, with plenty of Greg's excellent brew available.
The food walk was a real inspiration. We were thinking our way back to the Neolithic as we searched trees and hedges for edible tidbits. This can help to link us back to the land, as well as making walks more interesting.
We found that Jack-in-the-Hedge is excellent for making a meat source--prepared just like mint sauce. There were lots of possibilities for salads, including sorrel and dandelion, and plenty of leaves that can substitute for spinach, including plantain and nettle.
Dan told us that the grey squirrels take most of the hazelnuts before we get a chance to these days, but there will be lots of other fruits available in autumn time. I'm planning to make rowanberry jelly, as well as rose-hip syrup. Gin can be flavoured with sloes or with young beech leaves.
There are lots of uses for elderflowers, including wine, tea, and a sponge cake. For the cake you need to put the head of the flower into the cake tin and put the mixture around it before cooking. For fritters, just dip the heads in batter and fry; then eat holding the stalk, which isn't worth eating itself. Other options for teas include the many types of mint that are around at this time of year, as well as lime flowers.
In yet another reference to the Second World War, Dan told us about the Hedgrow Harvest scheme that had been part of the focus on food production during our last national crisis. Dan explained how this knowledge of nature's larder has been lost since then as a result of changes to farming, but also, I suspect, the national education system, focused around training workers and city types.