Wild food foraging in South Devon’s larder
January 1st, 2018 | By Ross Purdy
Local resident Trudy Turrell has been foraging for over 30 years, and regularly runs events for the South Devon AONB. A keen advocate of exploring this stunning area and the wild plants found here, in the 2018 issue of view, she tells us what you can look for and where.
Here Trudy has also given a fantastic Seasonal Goodies List, giving you detailed information about what foods are in season when.
- Sloes from hedgerows and the Coast Path for gin, cordials and sauces.
- Salads from the hedgerows – navelwort or pennywort, (the round leaves look like a belly button) and bittercress (like a mini watercress but grows on land). The first wild garlic shoots appear in late February.
- An abundance of all things leafy! Salads include chickweed, herb bennet, wild garlic and young dandelions. Try transparent lime leaves and beech leaves straight from the trees. There’s sea beet on the estuaries and shore and the first tender seaweed.
- Elderflowers for cordial and fizz! Try cooking them with rhubarb for a wonderful jam, or dip the flowers in pancake batter, then in a plate of caster sugar, for an indulgent ‘wild food doughnut!’
- More hedgerow salads, plus sherbet-tasting wood sorrel and pignuts to dig for in the woods.
- Seaweed comes into its own. Gather from now till the autumn and dry in a low, slow oven until crisp. Eat as crisps or add to soups and stews. They are full of minerals and I use as a stock powder as they are naturally salty.
- Estuaries make the best place to gather greens. Meadowsweet is in flower. Dry for a naturally sweet herb tea. Take to the sea for seaweed galore.
- Berries are to be found everywhere – not just blackberries but rose hips (including the fleshy rosa rugosa often plated around car parks and parks), geulder rose, elderberries, crab apples and haws – the fruits of hawthorn. These make a ketchup to rival tomato. I freeze a mix of fruits to make into jams, cordials and jellies in winter. Don’t forget nuts in the woods – coppiced hazel will yield lots of them!
Looking for some inspiration on what to cook with your latest wild food finds? Here are a couple of Trudy’s favourite recipes. We will post more over the coming months, so watch this space!
Cheat’s sea beet pies
Here’s a quick dish to try after a day at the beach or by the river. Just pick up some fresh croissants and a pack of feta cheese on the way back. These remind me of the cheese and spinach pies we once got in Greece…
Take a bunch of sea beet leaves, wash briefly and steam or cook in barely any water for 5 minutes. Don’t add salt as they are slightly salty. Strain and press excess water out. Split each croissant lengthways- open and fill generously with sea beet and chunks of feta. Grill slowly to heat through. Serve with salad.
In the spring, gather big bunches of wild garlic for adding to pasta dishes and soups. Whizz it into a pungent pesto or make almost instant garlic bread by chopping the leaves into butter, spreading onto a baguette and popping into the oven.