Foraging 2011

Rowan BerriesRowan BerriesJULY 2011
There is an abundance of berries and fruits forming in our area. Here are the Rowan trees on Wilberforce Road, everyone seems to be full of red or yellow berries. In my garden my old friend the Weeping Widow mushroom has made a dramatic reappearance. Because I haven't been digging for the past couple of years this fungus has been able to spread its little mycorrhizal threads throughout the flowerbed and its fruiting bodies - the Weeping Widow mushrooms - have popped up all over the place in my strawberry and raspberry patch.

Weeping WidowWeeping WidowIt used to just appear in one or two places. I am excited to learn in such a tangible way how less work (less digging and cultivating) has led to greater yields. I'm also glad I didn't pull out all my sweet pea because the nitrogen it fixes can now be spread around the soil by the Weeping Widow fungus, thus benefiting the whole system. And with the mushrooms fried with teryaki sauce taste great.

one to try in a couple of to try in a couple of weeks...MAY 2011 We walked along the New River and also around the grounds of the Castle Climbing Centre. We found plenty of mallow (m. sylvestris) leaves and flowers, lime leaves, thistles, garlic mustard, horseradish, clover, plantain and red valerian. Shaun Joynson took some great pictures of some of these. The rose bay willow herb had turned mostly bitter. A document with photos and text on some of these plants is attached below.
May: New RiverMay: New RiverAfter our walk we went to the Castle Cafe. Gemma tried extracting something worthwhile from the centre of the thistle heads she'd picked, Corina shared a delicious jam made from rhubarb and elderflower (recipe below) and the woman who works at the cafe gave us some bolted chard tips that had been marinated in olive oil, anchovy oil and garlic. The conversation went all foody I have decided to add a section about local food on this website, with content from Shaun Joynson.

Ally Pally saladAlly Pally saladAPRIL 2011
A good crowd of us headed into Ally Pally to see what we could find. Gemma took the lead with support from Ed, Phil and Jo. We sat to share bread and a foraged salad - Gemma had brought loads of lovely dressings. Pictured here are sweet cicely, purslance, hop shoots (which we were surprised to find), wild garlic, dandelion petals, lime, white deadnettle, three cornered leek and garlic mustard. A pretty potent mix!

MARCH 2011
Check out this page for a write up of the Parkland Walk forage, followed by cooking at the new community space in Rock Street, the Blackstock Greenhouse. We found garlic mustard, wild garlic, red valerian, bittercress, hawthorn leaves, dandelion leaves, lesser celendine, hops, cleavers, white deadnettles, cow parsley, 3 cornered leek, chives and large quantities of hogweed!

gorse flowers by the lakegorse flowers by the lake
januaryjanuaryDid a lovely forage around Finsbury Park itself. A ridiculous number of people turned up and in spite of the full-on wind and chilly temperatures it was really fun. See the attached document "ForagingFinParkJan2011PlantDesc" for an illustrated guide of all the plants we looked at - plus some others we missed because we dived into the cafe when the cold got too bad!

January saladJanuary saladIn the evening, I cooked up the cleavers into a flageolet, carrot and tomato stew. They need to be shredded small and I didn't bother removing the leaves from the stems as it was too fiddly. Really yummy. I also made a delicious salad from the other leaves - yarrow, bittercress, chickweed etc.

Cleavers stew 1Cleavers stew 1
cleavers stew 2cleavers stew 2

Gemma found plenty of green leaves under the snow to accompany our delicious vegan Christmas Eve meal including one of my favourites, salad burnet - tastes like walnuts and cucumber. picking over foraged leavespicking over foraged leavesHere Gemma is modelling a rather attractive New Zealand Flax head-dress. (Little did I know that this was the start of a lengthy obsession with the weaving and constructive potential of this plant.)
December saladDecember salad

I went along with the Urban Harvest crew to collect from near the Meadows Orchard Project, the woods to the east of Wood Vale. Ribwort Plantain was really abundant - cooked it later in a vegetable and barley stew and it was lovely.

The most exciting thing for me was the Judas' Ear fungus which grows on elder trees. Because it's so distinctive I wasn't at all worried about confusing it with something poisonous and I'm completely confident about finding it again. Judas Ear Fungus on Elder treeJudas Ear Fungus on Elder treeEaten raw it has a solid jelly texture and initially not much taste. After a few seconds the pleasant mushroom flavour arrives. We sliced it thinly and fried it along with some ground elder and a salad made up of Chickweed, Honesty, Yarrow, Garlic Mustard and Sweet Cicely.

foraged feastforaged feastWe also sampled some of Gemma's fruit leathers and service fruit - yet another amazing discovery for me this year. You eat them when they start to go brown and they taste like chocolate liqueurs; sweet and alcoholic.

October: EleagnusOctober: EleagnusOCTOBER Jen pointed out these Eleagnus, or Autumn Olive, bushes growing very near where we live. It's one of the plants we're going to propagate in the tree nursery because it's a nitrogen fixer and an all round cool plant. autumn olive leavesautumn olive leavesThe speckled red berries can be made into jam and the leaves (about the same size as bay leaves) are white on the reverse. On the same side road, just off Adolphus Road, we found a scrambling hop plant and a very productive quince bush.

hopshopsAlso in October the two AAG Global Exchange students, Rahul and Steph, started a placement with me and went on a food foraging walk with Gemma Harris. An account of their walk along the New River, entering from Wightman Road/Allison Road entrance and exiting onto Wightman Road/Hampden Road is attached below. It's called 'Foraging Tour'. Steph's blog account of the walk is here.

September: hawthornSeptember: hawthornSEPTEMBER My family took part in the Belsize Eco fair food foraging walk on Hampstead Heath where we found loads of plants to take. We focused on hawthorns, picking enough to make some delicious hawthorn and crab apple jelly. My children enjoyed eating them then and there.

September: grapesSeptember: grapesSince then, we've identified loads of local hawthorns, including an ornamental one on my street that had huge and very sweet fruit. I just grab a handful as I walk past nearly every day - and I swear they're the reason I've managed to avoid the flu!

Zakia and JoZakia and JoSome of the Parkwood parents and their children came to pick grapes and then stamp out the juice. There were at five families all in all and it was a lovely after school activity.

Nick, Ollie, Mahmud and the more adventurous children clambered enthusiastically up ladders to pluck off the fruit.

stomping feetstomping feetItalian born, Fiametta was a natural at picking the grapes from the plant and the grape stomping was very popular with the children. We made them wash their feet! The longest stage in the process was filtering the mush into containers. Everyone enjoyed trying out the tart juice and of course the getting messy.

AUGUSTAugust: vine leavesAugust: vine leaves When she found out I had three grape vines in my back garden, one of the Turkish mums asked if she could come and take the leaves. This she did, but more enthusiastically than I imagined and my picturesque vine was looking decidedly scraggly by the end of it!

August: lime leavesAugust: lime leavesLove lime (or linden) leaves - these are from one of those hybrid ones with massive leaves that sucker all over the place and have to be pollarded. They have a mild slightly nutty taste and but are kind of slimy when you chew them. Prolong the growing season by cutting them back. The light green leaves are yum in a salad or by themselves straight off the tree. Here Sally is trying out lime leaf dolmus.

JULY Again at Parkwood, with the parent-led gardening club. We picked marjoram, rosemary, lavender and thyme, dried it in the classrooms and then bottled it up. Nice little project for children, especially crumbling the herbs into jars and decorating the labels. We sold the jars in the playground as 'N4 herbs'.

JUNE Okay, so we got more cherries than this! They are from the two trees in the car park at Parkwood Primary school. Jen and I started a bit of a craze with the kids climbing on fences etc to get at them. They are sweet cherries. I was astonished to learn I could eat them and that they tasted just like cherries(!)

Pascale and GuyPascale and GuyJUNE 25TH
Following on from last months' successful forage we decided to track some of the salad leaf plants we found last time, such as hogweed and cleavers. We found wild cherries that were ready to eat and tried out thistle stems. We also found some burdock and rose bay willow herb.
On leaving Parkland Walk, Jo Homan was excited to see two guys, Guy and Pascale, picking flowers from a nearby lime tree - apparently these can be dried used for a tea. Guy has been foraging his whole life and is confident about identifying edible fungi. He said he'd be happy to help with future events. This month's food foraging was covered by Haringey Advertiser so we should have some press coverage.

We plan on having a plum-focused event at the end of July - we will forage plums and then make them into jam etc. If you know of any available plum trees near you please let us know.
See also the write up in the Tottenham and Wood Green Advertiser and a PDF of the feature is attached below.

MAY 2010
parkland walkparkland walkOn Friday 21st May 2010 about 20 people foraged for free wild food along Parkland Walk, just off Finsbury Park. We were led by Gemma Harris and Phil Mason but others chipped in the occasional bit of information. We found hogweed, cleavers, garlic mustard, plantain, ash keys and many other edible plants there for the taking. People were excited and generally amazed that there are so many edible plants found in abundance. The event was so popular we decided to make it a regular event.

Very short videos here and here.

Please see below for a couple of hogweed and cleavers recipes.