Who Knew There Were So Many Edible Plants – Foraging in Scotland
Last weekend we spent our Sunday morning on a guided foraging walk with Monica Wilde along the hedgerow and shore around Tyninghame area in East Lothian as a surprise for Ali’s birthday this year as something a bit different.
We met Monica and the rest of the group at 9.15am and started on a 5 hour foraging wander learning all about the different edible plants along the hedgerow, the marshland and finally the seashore. Monica has an absolute wealth of knowledge and is so passionate about foraging and eating wild it is a real pleasure walking with her and hearing all her ideas and getting the chance to try some of the things she makes with foraged plants.
As we walked and tried different plants I took as many notes as I could and as many pictures as possible to be able to refer back at any point and I am so glad I did as I can not believe how much info there was and the vast variety of plants that grow on our doorsteps that are edible and there for foraging. There were a good few surprises along the walk which I will share with you so I hope you like the post and I would highly recommend booking on one of Monicas walks, I can’t wait for the next one I am able to go on.
Below are the plants and some little bits of info we learnt on our foraging walk and photos if I have managed to capture one. If you do decide to go foraging by yourself for the first time do be mindful that not everything is edible and don’t pick from the side of a common dog-walkers route, I am sure you can figure out why.
Chickweed – Common leaf that can be used in salads, has a cooling effect
Nettles – Dry the seeds in the sun and can be used as mood lifter. Tea made out of nettles could help symptoms of hayfever.
Ground Elder – A common weed that you may curse in your garden can be used as a salad leaf, The leaves have a celery flavour and the stalk has a peppery flavour.
Elderflower – Coming to the end of their best for this years season. Pick the flowers and dry to preserve and you can use them to make sorbets, ice cream and my favourite idea is pannacotta. Or you could of course make elderflower cordial.
Once the berries have formed then you can pick them too and cook with balsamic vinegar and sugar to make a balsamic elderberry reduction syrup.
Pineapple Weed – This is related to chamomile and can be used to make tea just like it or you could infuse it into vodka or gin. It is known as pineapple weed due to aroma it gives off when crushed.
Sweet Cicely – I missed a photo of this one so here’s a link. This has a sweet aniseed flavour and can be used as a natural sweetener that will not affect your blood sugars
Burdock – In the first year of the plant you can harvest the root and stir-fry. The second year the plant will produce flowers and you can peel and boil the stem to reduce any bitterness and will have good action on your liver function.
Plantain Weed – When the leaves are young they are good to eat but past a certain age and they would be too tough. Up the leaves there are veins / strings that you can pull away from the leaf and can be twisted together to give a strong string to use.
Gorse Flowers – Only to be seen on gorse plants in months with the letter ‘R’ in them. You can see multi-coloured gorse flowers in this post. The flowers can be dried within sugar to infuse the coconut sweetness into the sugar and then you could put a little into something like a cocktail.
Dog rose flowers – These can be eaten with salads as they are for a pretty visual or once the fruit, rose hips, has appeared in Autumn you can infuse into syrups or alcohol.
Hogweed Seeds – They are still too young at this time of year but once they have dried a little and turn purple they can be used in chutneys to give a coriander infused with orange kind of flavour.
Hawthorn Berries – These are also still too young at this time of year but once they have turned red they can be used to make hawthorn gin. Once you have let your gin mature for a while you will want tostrain the berries out using a muslin cloth. If your gin hangs around for too long (unlikely in my house) it can turn cloudy, to avoid this you can use a pectolase
Pheasantback Mushroom – Will be found growing on trees. Best to eat only the young mushrooms before the become thick and leathery. Can be used to dry and ground up to give an intense mushroom powder which would be great for stocks.
Common Vetch – This pretty little plant belongs to the pea family and grows tiny little pods. Need to watch not to eat too much as it does have a level of toxicity, pretty in salads.
Dandelions – Best to pick the leaves from long grass as they will be less bitter to eat. The roots can be roasted like you would parsnips or if you were looking for an alternative to coffee you could dry them and grind them.
Sticky Willy – Best to avoid once they get big & hairy (hee hee, giggles like school girl). The younger growth can be chopped up and cooked into a soup. The fruits can be dry roasted and ground up to make an alternative to coffee, has a high diuretic impact.
Psyllium Husk – Anyone bought this from the health food shops before to add fibre to your diet or too cook with in low carb cooking? Well who would have known it was a little plant that grew in Scotland. Must be taken with lots of water as has a very high absorption rate and high fibre.
White Clover – Full of phyto-estrogens that can be used at menopause to help balance hormones
Thistles – All differenet types are edible. The seeds can be used as a setting agent for goats milk to turn it into cheese and the stem can be boiled and baked with parmesan.
Sorrell Leaves – I remember eating these sharp little leaves as a child. Would be a great edition to a fresh salad to bring a little acidity. Could also be a great edition to a sauce to go with fish.
Ladies Bedstraw – So called from when the days back when it was dried and stuffed into mattresses to give a nice aroma.
Yarrow – A fusion of delicate flavours of thyme, tarragon, rosemary, minty & parsley – savoury and slightly bitter. Would go well with fish. Has clotting properties so can stop bleeds if you ever cut yourself whilst out foraging.
Sea Arrow Grass – You can identify this one from the seed shoots and then you pick the grass like shoots. Has an amazingly strong coriander like flavour. Loved this one.
Sea Blight – A great source of iodine (a major deficiency within our population now). Fresh, salty and juicy in flavour. Would be great lightly steamed and added to a warm salad. Sorry for terrible photo, you can see the growth patch.
Samphire – WHAT!? Was so excited to find out this is growing on our marshland, it is just starting to come up now at this time of year so forget about the imported stuff and get down the marshland and pick some. Will be found in the marsh and lower ground. Monica mentioned that it is good pickled so must try this.
Scurvy Grass – AKA Wild Wasabi. Both the leaves and the flowers deliver a wasabi / horseradish style flavour and heat.
Sea Buckthorn – Growns along the edge of the seashore and in autumn thy have bright orange berries that can be eaten, they are very difficult to harvest though.
Valerian – The root of this plant can be used to offer a calming effect, especially good for those with nervous dispositions.
Wild Thyme – Beautiful little flowers on this one and delivers the same flavour as thyme
When foraging for seaweeds it is important to pick it fresh so research when the tide is going to be fully out and walk out the shore as far as you can and find seaweed that is growing on the rocks. All seaweed that you will find is edible, it may just not be as palatable as some.
Monica had some seaweed powders that she had ade by drying, toasting and grinding seaweeds and uses for flavour intensifying in dishes.
Caragheen – A vegetarian alternative to gelatine. You can boil a handful of the seaweed and then strain to remove any particles and use to thicken pannacotta.
Thongweed – Can be pickled and stored in sterile jars.
Tubular Seaweed – Delivers a real savoury hit to meals
Pepper Dulse – The most wanted and expensive of our seaweeds and adds a umami to dishes. Fry to cook or a crispy savoury snack or top on salads.
Spirulina – WHAT?! Again, can not believe this is growing on our shorelines and does not need to be bought from health food shops for a horrible amount of money. There is a complete abundance of it too – anyone else thinking business idea?
Sugar Kelp – Cut this long seaweed into squares and fry to make crisps
The big throngs of brown kelp can be collected and cut into little sticks to dry and you can keep them to add to stocks to give an intense umami savoury flavour from the high percentage of glutamate.
Phew, so there you have the run through of the top-line info we learnt on our walk – what an amazing day and so much knowledge learnt.
Keep an eye out for some foraged recipes hopefully coming up soon on the blog – the day after our foraging walk I looked out of our bedroom window and realised we have a massive elderflower tree growing just over our fence.
Ciao for now