Monday, 10 June 2013

Out and about some more

So I've managed to get out and about a bit more over the last few days. Had a really nice day out at Monkey World too.

I spent a long evening on Thursday night walking in the fields out the back of my house. I really am blessed to live right on the edge of town looking out over some really lovely English countryside with Glastonbury Tor in the distance. The lovely evening treated me to views like this:

I simply trundled around the edges of the fields looking for plants. A lot of my time when out and about is being spent looking for useful plants and really adding to and building my knowledge. I am learning a few plants but mainly cementing the ones I thought I knew but wasn't sure of. Here are some of what I saw.

Silver Weed grows a lot in the fields I was in. The problem is that so does the common dog poop (dogia yukkus) so I won't be digging any up from here. Shame really. There is some further afield so I may gather up some from there. But it's a lesson to learn that you need to have some idea of the surrounding environment before foraging...

This is greater plantain (plantago major). Possibly the easiest latin name to learn! A really good wild edible but again not from this place! Too many dog walkers by far. Though I can't complain - I'm one of them! There are both of the main plantain types growing all around here. The narrow leaved plantain (Plantago lanceolata - plant like a lance to me) is all about - with it's seed heads. Like this...

I am so glad I bought the proper camera this time!

That's a burdock - of dandelion and burdock fame. I came across a recipe for dandelion and burdock beer recently and since I had some great success with my nettle beer I'm going to note the places the burdock grows and try to get some roots at their prime to make some. Though why, oh why - can't burdock grow in nice loose sandy soil and just be easy to pull out of the ground?

Ash with ash seeds known as keys growing in heavy bunches. You can make ash key pickle. Not something I've tried and to be honest I'm not sure when they are best to harvest to do this. Perhaps any readers who know will tell me. There are a few ash trees in the fields so a recipe and ideas would be cool.

Almost time for elder flowers! They are just starting to open, with a few early ones popping out. I am under instructions for elderflower fritters. I will almost certainly be making cordial and elder champagne too. These things, for good reason, are often the second wild foraging people ever do (after blackberries!) I am keeping an eye out every day. I will leave you with a couple of extra pictures with no captions for you to guess...

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A couple of days of practice...

Blimey - this blogging stuff really isn't easy. Perhaps one day I'll get to grips with it and post more. I can but hope. Not going to set any lofty goals of so many posts, etc. but let's see what I do. I have a lot of practice to do in the next few weeks before I'm off on my next course and want to document some of that.

I am enjoying the practice and looking at plants to add to my knowledge is really fun. If you want to understand a plant then get down on the ground, feel the leaves, the stem - smell the flowers. You see so much looking really close too. Also you don't need so long. In two hours I gathered up all the things I needed for fire lighting and poked and prodded loads of different plants.

Please don't take any of my plant identifications - even the obvious ones - as any kind of guide for yourselves. If you want to forage and look at plants, like I do, you'll need to get some good guides and perhaps get out on a good course to get you started - like this one. I have been on that course and cannot recommend it, or the guys at Wilderness Survival enough.

So. Here are some plants from my couple of hours in the woods:

The woods you can find me in sometimes. 
The pictures are not that good as I have discovered that even a stupidly expensive phone can't take good pictures in shady woods! Here are some edible plants that I found too...

This is Pendulous Sedge. You can eat the seeds. We have a load of this in the garden at home and I dry the leaves and make baskets from them.
Cleavers, or goosegrass  You can eat this too. Or annoy people by sticking it to their jumpers. I once read that it was used in big bunches to sweep bits of straw from milk when milking cows.
Wild Garlic. Just coming to the end of the few weeks that you can pick it. One of my favorite wild foods. 
Wild Strawberry. I had never seen this in the woods before. It must have been there. But I think that because I spend so much time crawling around I saw it. There wasn't a load of it about, but I didn't look for that long. I'll be going back to scout for this. 
Stinging nettles. For eating, for teas, for nettle beer. Also for making cordage.
I also found some useful but not edible plants, honeysuckle for instance - for fire lighting, and some seriously poisonous plants such as nightshade and wood spurge. I'll not post pictures of those as I don't want to confuse handy plants with those that'll kill you or make you ill.

I also gathered up all the materials for some friction fire lighting. But I'm cross about that... I have lit a few fires with bow drills before. Though what I learned is that a bow can be too long (I tried a long bow to see if it would work) and a spindle can be too thick . I tried a shaped spindle, thin where the string goes round and thin at the working end, but thick in the rest of it. I figured this would cut down on the work needed to make it but it didn't suit me. I had a few embers that just wouldn't sustain for more than a second or so. I don't think I had the energy to put the final bit of effort in as the ember started to form. 

It's all about learning and I learned stuff, though. So I should be happy... should be.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

More Winter foraging...

So I went out to find some chickweed and to see what was about in the field where I walk the dog. There are some very young shoots of nettles and some tiny dandelions. And there was chickweed in the field where I expected to find it - picture below.

Reading about chickweed on the internet I've found that it contains saponins - a natural soap like substance. So I have picked a few stems to see if they lather. This would mean that as well as food they could also be used to wash with. Trying this I found that either I picked at the wrong time of the year, or they don't have enough as they didn't lather really but produced a dark green juice that cleaned well and left a pleasant smell.

It may be interesting to see if this changes later in the year and to compare with other saponin plants like soapwort and horse chestnut and perhaps any others I don't know.

All interesting stuff, though. Have a read for some more info.