Sunday, 9 March 2008

Food for Free

I've owned a great little book called Food for Free by Richard Mabey for about 20 years, and from time to time I worry the family by bringing stuff home to cook and eat.

I have to admit that my identification skills of plants and fungi leave much to be desired, so do not take umbrage when they refuse to join me in the feast. Also, many of the 'edible' wild foods are inferior to cultivated varieties.
However, living by the sea, there are many fleshy edibles on the shore and it was time that I sampled some of these:

Rock Samphire - of King Lear fame - I tried last spring, and was good and tasty;

Alexanders (above) are popping up everywhere, and need to be tried;

Sea Kale was sampled this weekend, and I boiled the stems separately from the leaves which (according to the book) can be tough and 'like chewing a battleship'. The stems though are succulent when eaten like asparagus with butter, and were collected and sent to London in the old days. In fact, the leaves were OK, like sprout tops, as it's early in the season and they were young and fresh;
Sea Beet is the forebear of sugar beet, beetroot, spinach etc, and is currently too small to gather - I'll try this later in the year.

The rare Wild Cabbage is also to be found around here, but I don't know what it looks like (apart from being cabbage-like, obviously).

5 comments:

Mary said...

That bird picture is beautiful! The book sounds intersting, and you seem to be having fun trying the different plants, even if your family isn't :-) At least in a time of crisis, you will know what is safe to eat, while the rest of us starve.

Tony Morris said...

Hi Steve, we've got the book, and tried a few things. Alexanders was introduced by the Romans, (what did they do for us?). Having tried it my advice is stick to celery!

Anonymous said...

Sea Kale is a protected species and a person was prosecuted a few years back for removing it from the beach... watch out.

Sandpiper said...

Nice picture of the gull and an interesting blog too. I haven't tried these plants. but I've tried a few from the woods, and mostly they end up tasting like spinach or asparagus, so now I just shortcut it and buy the spinach or asparagus. I do like fiddleheads though. :)

Kingsdowner said...

Thanks for your comments......

Mary, I was worried when I read The Day of the Triffids, and try to learn what's edible in the countryside;

Tony, advice noted, but I'll still try some;

Sandpiper, I've eaten fiddleheads (young fern-fronds)in Canada, and agree - they're yummy.

Anon, that was a surprise to me but on investigation I see you're right http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/southern_counties/3015856.stm
I always take only a few leaves of stalks, leaving the plant to grow, but in the case of sea kale I'll avoid it in future. Thanks.