Sunday, 5 May 2013

foraging notes

Over the past couple of months I've been trying to educate myself about the joy of foraging. Here are my findings so far:

  • I use the word 'joy' advisedly - there is something very special and satisfying about gathering your food from the wild. Even my stepsons have changed from quietly suspicious, to enthusiastic taste testers - it's weeds for tea again tonight boys!
  • It's free!  (with all the usual caveats about getting the landowner's permission etc).
  • The food is as fresh as it could be and full of nutrients. (Would this be a good time to repeat the 'don't eat anything unless you're SURE you know what it is' mantra?).
  • Lastly - the words 'rare' and 'special delicacy' are okay if you're hunting for fabulously expensive truffles, or working as a Danish foraging pixie at Noma, but if you need to get the tea on the table after work then 'abundant' and 'invasive weed' is what you're after. Preferably close to your back door, rather than requiring a special trip to a distant beauty spot.

With that last point in mind, my eye fell upon the particularly lush patch of weeds that flourishes around the beehives at work.  The uniquely uncomfortable combination of ear defenders and bee protection headgear means that it doesn't get strimmed very often.  A quick shuffle through my reference books revealed that the three things growing there in profusion were ideal candidates for a wild greens recipe. 

Anyone who has ever looked at books about wild food or heritage vegetables will be familiar with the words 'an acceptable substitute for spinach'. So harnessing the spirit of my inner elderly Greek woman, (the one that's usually squashed underneath the 6' kiwi bird), I gathered a generous bag full of greens to make hortakopita.  That's the wild food version of the greek spinach and feta pie, spanakopita.

had to sneak over the fence to avoid upsetting the bees

here's the greens after I washed them

steamed, squeezed, chopped and mixed with feta cheese

hortakopita... Opa! 

Verdict: Delicious - and all the better for growing right on my doorstep.
 I used store bought puff pastry rather than filo to speed up the proceedings.


  1. Oh my word that looks amazing! My only real adventure into foraging was picking nettles bare handed, with a 'mind over matter' attitude. The soup didn't taste good enough to warrant the sore fingers for three days. But your post has made me reconsider completely! x

  2. Rubber gloves are the answer - and by the time you've washed the nettles (still wearing your Marigolds), the sting pretty much goes out of them. Just pick the tips of young nettles that haven't flowered. It all benefits from a quick steam - the cleavers are kind of bristly in their raw state, so it's a bit like chewing on a spider's leg. But the pie was delicious (honest).

  3. Yum. I have to say we don't get any of those weeds. I'm not convinced wandering jew or Trad as it is now called would be that nice.... Although the chickens love it so it must be full of water? I will have to do a bit of research I think