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The Wild Garden Pantry

Before you take out that mower!! might wish to consider the edible goodies flourishing within...

Whether you own an allotment plot, a few acres of ploughed land or a small earthy patch in your garden where you wince at the overgrowth whilst the odd blackbird pulls out worms from the compost heap - move closer and listen carefully.

Behold, your veggies for the day!

Your compost heap, ploughed field or neglected earth patch will host at least 1 or 2 wild edible plants which are highly nutritious, easy to harvest and free!

So what can I find in this heap?

Fat Hen (Chenopodium album) or

Lamb's Quarters

FLAVOUR: Spinach-like

WHEN TO PICK: June to Sept

DESCRIPTION: 20 - 150cm tall, leaves heart to diamond-shaped, green-grey, leaves branch off individually and sometimes flop down, stem is stiff and thick, flowers cluster in greenish cream at the top in the form of a spike.

HOW TO USE: whole plant eaten raw or wilted

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)

FLAVOUR: mild nutty

WHEN TO PICK: early spring when top leaves have not developed stinging barbs

DESCRIPTION: Sting on larger leaves! Opposite, deeply serrated hairy leaves. Stalk hairy and grows up to 40-50 cm high, garden edges, hedgerows and woodland edges. Flowers white to cream.

HOW TO USE: Take top four tiny leaves (two sets of opposite leaves) and wilt in dishes

Pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea) or 'Wild chamomile' or 'Mayweed'

FLAVOUR: Pineapple (unsurprisingly!) slightly bitter and grainy

DESCRIPTION: Looks like a daisy, with no petals. small annual introduced to the UK in early 1900s, found mainly on disturbed tracks, arable crop fields and garden edges. Seeds blown by wind and flowers June to Sept, seeds set in July. Height usually low, <10cm with narrow, finely split leaves like chamomile.

WHEN TO PICK: June to August

HOW TO USE: Sprinkle seeds over a salad, herbal medicinal tea or in a cocktail!

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

FLAVOUR: nutty!

WHEN TO PICK: early spring to summer

DESCRIPTION: light green oval leaves 1cm - 10cm length with a point, creeping plant that grows along the ground before it has flowered, very tiny white star-like flowers, 5 petals, split like mini rabbit ears. Grows to <10cm in height, a bane in gardens!

HOW TO USE: leaves eaten raw or in salads.

Common sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

FLAVOUR: leaves like apple or grape skin, sour

WHEN TO PICK: early spring to summer

DESCRIPTION: leaves <1cm - 10cm length, single stem arrow-head shaped leaves, with two 'tails' growing in grassy areas, meadows, heaths, disturbed by sheep or grazing animals. Main plant stem tall (10 - 120cm) with leaves clasping the stem all the way to the top near the flower. Flowers small red/green, look like grains.

HOW TO USE: leaves eaten raw or in salads. Use in apple pie to replace apples!

Cleavers / Goose grass / sticky weed / sticky willies (Galium aparine)

FLAVOUR: like spinach when cooked

WHEN TO PICK: Early spring time (Feb - April)

DESCRIPTION: a flimsy tall plant with tiny hairy hooks on the stem and leaves which cling to animals and humans when brushed past. Grows 50 - 180cm, with square-like stems and leaves attached in a 'whorl' around one point. Very tiny white flowers. Found in cultivated gardens, hedgerows, woodland edges, wasteland.

HOW TO USE: Wilt like spinach

Feeling ready to start cooking up a storm, try some of my spring green recipes!

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