Greet The Spring With Free Wild Foods

The Spring is that time of year when the wild forager can start adding to their dietary repertoire once again. Whether that's a salad of wild spring greens and flowers or a dandelion leaf or nettle soup.

In the West we have lost much of what our ancestors once knew we have become distant from the land and the world around us. Our food comes pre-packaged and only those thinks that will keep for a week or more are stacked on supermarket shelves.

The world around us is full of things that can be eaten and are even good to eat but wild foods do not last long and many need to be cooked or eaten within a few hours of picking. But the quest is definitely worthwhile and there is a range of forgotten tastes and flavours in the world around us. It can also put us directly in contact with the foods that our ancestors ate, such as this recipe for:

A Spring Tart

The recipe itself dates from the 18th century and makes excellent use of spring greens and flowers

Ingredients:
80g of spring buds (hawthorn flower and leaf buds, gorse flowers and beech leaves just out of bud)

150g spring greens (the young leaves of primroses, violets and strawberries)

12 primrose flowers

80g young spinach

100ml double cream

300ml single cream

60g naples bisket

1 whole egg

2 egg yolks

enough pastry for a 22cm pie shell

60g sugar

salt, to taste

freshly-grated cinnamon

Method:
Place the primrose flowers in sugar to partly candy them.

Meanwhile, wash the buds and greens, drain them then chop very small. Add to a pan along with the single and double cream and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3 minutes, or until the greens wilt then take off the heat. Finely chop or grate the naples bisket and stir into the cream along with the sugar, salt and spices. Set aside to cool.

After you have made your pie crust (use either the short-crust for an expensive pie or the standart pie-crust recipes) place in a 22cm pie dish, add dried beans to keep the bottom flat and blind bake in an oven at 200°C for ten minutes.

Whisk the eggs into the cream mixture. Pour this mixture into the part-baked pie crust and dot the surface with butter. Bake the tart in an oven at 170°C for 75 minutes or until the surface turns a golden brown. Take out of the oven and allow to cool completely before decorating the top with the candied primrose flowers.

For something more up to date and modern here's an Asian recipe that uses as a main ingredient the common Wood Ear fungus (also known as Jew's Ear) often found growing on elder tree branches:

Chicken and Wood Ear Fungus Soup

Ingredients:
4 (about 400g) chicken thigh fillets

2 tsp groundnut oil

30g peeled ginger, shredded

1l chicken stock

60ml shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine, or dry sherry)

2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1/4 tsp crushed white peppercorns

100g wood ear mushrooms, trimmed

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

Method:
Bring a pan of lightly-salted water to a boil then add the chicken. Return to a boil and immediately take off the heat. Drain and set aside for 5 minutes, until the chicken cools. Pat the chicken dry then thinly slice across the grain.

Add oil to a wok over high heat. Add the ginger and chicken and stir fry for 2 minutes. Add the stock, rice wine, soy sauce and peppercorns. Bring the mixture to a boil then add he mushrooms and garlic. Remove from the heat and ladle into soup bowls. Serve immediately.

This also highlights how wild foods are a common ingredient in many other regions of the world and it's only in the West that we have become suspicious of and have forgotten about the bounty of the world all around us.

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About The Author, Gwydion
Dyfed Lloyd Evans is the author and creator of the Celtnet Recipes site which specializes in Wild Food Recipes and makes available recipes and descriptions for over a hundred wild foods in his Guide to Wild Foods that includes links to recipes for each item.