Love the idea of heading out for a walk in the countryside and finding fresh wild food, but my foraging skills are limited to the blatantly obvious - things like blackberries, wild strawberries, elderflower, rosehips - ones where there's no speck of doubt! Going on a course would help, and I've talked about doing that for ages, but it always slips off the 'would be good to do' list.
We found a puffball mushroom the size of a football a while a go, and even though it really couldn't be mistaken for anything else, there was still this slight niggle about actually cooking and eating it. Silly really because it was delicious. And lasted for days.
Wild garlic is good foraging fodder at the moment, and luckily we have quite a few patches around the garden. The foliage isn't unlike a lot of other healthy green, shiny weeds growing like triffids at the moment, but crush a leaf between your fingers and there's no mistaking that pungent smell. The raw leaves have a strong, fiery taste, though really come into their own when cooked. Even more delicate than garlic, a bit like chives, and a lovely alternative to spinach wilted in some olive oil or butter.
Best picked April/May time, before there are too many star-like white flowers, when the leaves can get tough and bitter - you can eat the flowers too though. Probably coming toward the end of the season now, but the leaves still taste good to me. Wild garlic is usually found in woodland among the bluebells, or in marshy, damp places.
Says a lot about our garden...
It doesn't take long to pick, my daughter knows the best spots now, and you don't need much anyway. Often chop up a few leaves and add them to pasta sauce or risotto, but the thing everyone seems to like the best are these wild garlic, cheese and fennel muffins. They're a savoury-loving lot my kids.
280g of wholemeal or plain flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder
2 tablespoons of sugar
75g of grated cheddar + 25g grated parmesan (or 100g of whatever cheese you have in the fridge)
10 wild garlic leaves finely chopped
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
100ml plain yogurt and 200ml of milk (or 300ml of milk)
90 ml of vegetable oil
Makes about 10 muffins
190-200 degrees C, Gas Mark 5-6
Put the cases in the muffin tin - they tend to stick to the cases more than sweet ones, so if you prefer, do away with them and lightly oil the tin instead.
Add the flour, baking powder and sugar to a large bowl and stir in most of the grated cheese. Leave a little to sprinkle on top of the muffins.
In a measuring jug dollop in the yogurt, top up to 300ml with the milk, and then pour in 90ml of vegetable oil. Crack the egg into this liquidy concoction and beat with a fork.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, add the chopped wild garlic and the fennel seeds and mix together. Don't over-stir though. The mixture will be quite sloppy.
Spoon into the cases and sprinkle on the leftover cheese.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops are golden brow and spring back when pressed gently.
Best served fresh and warm - though not at all bad reheated with a little spread of butter...