Aside from knowing what is safe to forage, it’s rather important that foragers know what they are going to do with their harvest. After all, what’s the point in harvesting a heap of plant material when only a couple of leaves are needed for seasoning, or only the youngest leaves are tasty? At the end of the day, many foragers end up with a slightly smaller heap of unwanted plant material in their kitchen which ends up in the bin, or at best, on the compost heap. If you dont know which part of an edible plant to harvest or how much of it is needed to make a food item, please leave those plants where they belong.
Just because there is a wild glut of a plant, you don’t need to harvest much of it to make a great difference to your diet. This thought is central to my reasoning for foraging herbs rather than other edible plants. Generally a little goes a long way, in terms of flavour and benefits. An exception is Stinging Nettle, where I like to harvest a bowlfull of ‘tops’ at a time, many days in a row, to make tonic infusions.
Here are a few ways to use just a little foraged Spring Greens, such as Chervil, Ramsons, Geranium, Nettle or Ground Elder. These are my favorites, no measurement involved and less is more…
1. Finely chop a few leaves and add, ten minutes or so before the end of cooking, to whatever you are cooking (stews, casseroles, soups, fried chicken, baked fish, baked beans! etc). The photo above shows my pan cooked chicken with some sour cream added to the juices near the end along with a few chopped leaves of ground elder and wild garlic.
2. Add whole or chopped leaves to a pan of spinach and cook As usual for spinach.
4. Boil the greens in a little water for ten minutes, adding a chopped or pressed clove of garlic and a pinch of salt & pepper, near the end of cooking. This even works well for edible tree leaves such as Beech.
If you prefer a little sophistocation for your foraged fayre, there are plenty of recipes around. I like to experiment sometimes but if you want to incorporate more wild food into your diet then I suggest you keep it simple, keep it sparse and use those vitamin packed spring greens to spice up your usual meals. It’s also safer that way.