Thursday, March 12, 2009

With a talk to give on wild salads, foraging starts early. Winter Purslane forms bright green carpets of spade-shaped young leaves in sand dunes, succulent until starry-white flowers open in the centre of circular leaves. Dense clumps of nutty tasting Lambs Lettuce (Corn Salad) sit tight in cracks & crannies of stone walls. Beyond weed-strewn boulders of the rocky shore grow masses of Mussels in clumps. To collect the best, hold the largest in one hand and select only those the same size or larger. To avoid collecting too many, estimate the number required before starting to pick. On the return, an area of boulders is coated with shiny, maroon-black, Laver seaweed, nutritious and full of protein, best-eaten straight from the rock.

Driving homeward, we pick early Dandelion flowers from a sunny bank and find alongside a succulent clump of new Sorrel.

Hop over a dry stone wall to a spring-fed pond in a wooded hollow to snap off fresh, purpled Watercress heads, tadpoles wriggling from spawn over warm silt. More Sorrel is pulled from an adjacent field corner; plenty of new Nettle shoots cropped with scissors and gloved hands for soup.

Up the lane, Wild Garlic leaves stand fresh green over tired grass; bunches of soft new Ivy-Leaved Toadflax growth spreads between warm wall stones; succulent discs of Pennywort easily snapped from damp walls further up. Beneath the walls, rosettes of saw-toothed Dandelion leaves are easy to gather before grass grows tall; in bare areas, pepper-hot Bittercress makes tight mounds of leaflets, some towering into tiny white flower.

So, the evening goes well: a short talk by way of introduction to Nettle or Watercress soup followed by fresh Mussels, hot-smoked on the spot, all accompanied by a wild leaf salad with Dandelion petal garnish, French bread and white wine.

Wildlife Wales Short Breaks: Autumn, Winter & Early Summer
For details, telephone (01341) 241469

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