Tim Maddams
tim maddams at newlyns cookery school

Time to go wild by Tim Maddams

It's that time of year again when we're fed up with all the root veg and the last of the brassicas are tough and bitter. But we have a problem, whilst my taste buds are aching for something springy with a fresh taste, it's likely to be a while before the veg farmers are able to satisfy that urge with some delicious spinach or chard and the asparagus is still a way off too.

 

Now, this is the thing. I am by nature a greedy and impatient person and that is how I find myself up to my knees in mud, covered in nettle stings, waving a wicker basket about as I wonder how on earth I am going to get out of here with my dignity intact and dry feet, never mind the basket of wild garlic I have just picked on the river bank.

 

I really can't recommend this type of 'gardening' enough.  It's high octane stuff, all the energy you expend is immediately transformed into food - no waiting, no planting, no weeding or tilling. It's all done for you by nature and it will connect your food with the seasons in a way nothing else can. Gathering food from the wild is called foraging and it can take place almost anywhere and at any time of the year.

 

Now, gathering food from the wild is a dangerous thing, not least because you can become seriously addicted to it, but also because there area lot of points that you can fall foul of – wildlife protected areas, angry farmers and land owners and of course incorrect identification.  The good old 'I didn’t know it was hemlock, it looked like parsley to me', could prove fatal.

 

Dangers aside though, there are two very easy to identify wild plants out there that it's almost impossible to mistake for anything else and they are so prevalent that you wont have to work to hard to find them. They are the common stinging nettle and the almost as common Ramsons or wild garlic.

 

Water mint is another spring favourite of mine. It is easy to find near streams and on river banks as it has a very spearminty aroma. The taste is somewhat of a combination of mints and can vary wildly from plant to plant, but rest assured, it's easy to identify and has a flavour that is not unwelcome pretty much anywhere from starter to dessert.

  

Now, not only do you have two or three new and versatile ingredients to add to you repertoire BUT you also have a nice feeling of satisfaction gained fro gathering these foods yourself. 

 

What to do with your foraging finds... 

 Try making a soup with wild garlic, just like a leek and potato, but don't add leeks, just as the potato is cooked add as much wild garlic as you can get in the pot and and blend immediately, season and serve. Nettle soup works just the same way.

 

Nettle, wild garlic and watermint pesto. Wash all your wildgreens and blanch the nettles in boiling water and refresh in icy cold water, drain well and squeeze out. Place all your greens roughly chopped in a blender and add your favourite veggie cheese, olive oil and toasted pumpkin seeds.  Blitz to a paste and use wherever you like.

 

Wild garlic pasta – Put some pasta on to boil and heat a little light olive oil in a pan, add a chopped chilli and a little of the cooking water from the pasta, roughly chop plenty of wild garlic and drain the pasta once tender. Add the wild garlic and pasta to the chilli and oil and add a little creme fraiche. Season well and serve.


For expert help on foraging and tips on what to do with your finds, why not book on to Tim's latest course at Newlyns Cookery School






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