Categorywild food

For wild food stuff, read my simple living blog: The Really Good Life

10 goals for 2010 – April & May progress update

1. To make a meal using only ingredients I’ve grown, raised, caught or killed myself.
April was an interesting meat-y month – we learned how to kill & dress chickens, and we also learned how to make sausages. It was also the proper start of seedling season – and that’s continued in May. So far, we’ve only had lettuce from the garden (winter gems) but the seedlings have been going well. This year is an experimentation year – I’m growing lots of different things to see how things grow in our new garden and also getting used to the different beds (two have proven to be shallower than expected, two deeper).

We’ve also been on a Wild Food Foray, which was a lot of fun and very interesting. I would like to go on another specialising in woodland wild food since that’s our main habitat.

My second attempt at a sourdough starter (after a first failure during the cold cold winter) failed miserably at the start of May – when everything came to a bit of a halt because I was sleeping 14 hours a day and tired for the other 10. However, we learned about slow rise bread while out on the Wild Food Foray and I thought that sounded bloody brilliant – so I’ve been grinding that lately. (Grinding in the levelling-up-at-video-games sense rather than the wheat-ears-to-flour sense.) Although each loaf takes nearly 24 hours from start to finish, it’s a relatively cheap thing to grind at and John is loving all the good, fresh bread.

2. To travel to a place on my “top ten places to go before I die” list.
Nope, still nothing on this one.

3. Finish writing my second novel.
I started to read through what I’ve written so far and while I haven’t done it so far, I know what my next step is (re-drafting while typing it up), then I’ll continue with the story.

4. Learn how to make sausages – wet English style ones and cured ones too.
As I said in #1, yes! Done this one! One goal off the list – hurrah!

Well, we made English wet ones and we learned the theory of making ones for curing (since it’s essentially the same). We also figured out we could use our half garage for hanging – it’s out of the way so it won’t stink up the house, quite cool and could easily be made a little more ventilated. Now it’s just a question of getting a mincer and giving it a go.

5. Spend at least a day fishing out on the North Sea.
I’ve done some research into dog-friendly places to stay on the coast, but that’s it so far.

6. Finally finish learning how to drive.
Done nothing on this.

7. Make a full outfit’s worth of clothing for myself – including spinning any wool used.
I learned how to spin today! Ok, technically that’s a June thing but sshhh! I’ve had the day off today and decided to learn a new craft – I intended it to be dyeing but when I went to the wonderful Textere Yarns (somewhere I’ve been intending to visit since before we moved to Bradford), they had lots of pretty coloured roving so I decided to give it a go instead. It’s lots of fun but my shonky homemade top whorl drop spindle is showing its shonkiness already so I’m going to get a better made one I think (and/or try to make a better one myself).

Today I’ve also started making a light dressing gown for myself for summer – from some lovely fabric I got from a random great fabric shop on Leeds Rd. I couldn’t find a decent pattern/how-to online so I’ve kinda made it up as I was going along, based on the theory of making a kimono wrap for a baby. I’m going to finish it tomorrow – if it works out, I’ll write it up and arguably, by itself, it’ll also be a full outfit, or rather an infit ;)

Tomorrow, I’m also going to try dyeing stuff – got some boring shop-bought dyes to start with but I’m hoping to go natural and find some suitable leaves at lunchtime when we’re out with the Lil’ dog.

8. Learn how to program and make a mini-game/application using Ruby.
I’ve returned to my programs and stuff a couple of times but as I said in my last update back in March, I’d reached a bit of a hurdle in my book, and that’s pretty demotivating. However, my list of ideas for simple programs is growing so I’ll get back to it soon.

9. Climb a mountain or at least a jolly big hill.
Still doing a lot of walking with Lil – or rather a lot more walking than we ever used to. Tom keeps mentioning Snowdon and/or the Three Peaks so maybe, maybe.

10. Participate more in the real world – plan/run a real life green event or scheme.
Again, lots of ideas and I’m *almost* ready to take the first step on two of them.

Wild Food Fun: Wild Food Foray with SlowFoodWYorks @ Bolton Abbey

On Sunday, we went on a Wild Food Foray just north of Bolton Abbey, North Yorks, organised by Slow Food West Yorkshire and led by medical herbalist & wild food expert Jesper Launder.

It was a glorious day – beautiful countryside and super sunny but with a lovely cooling breeze and a river for Lily to cool off in – and under Jesper’s tutelage, we got to try over a dozen different plants. We also did a spot of crayfishing in the river (catching nasty, invasive Signal crayfish), which was a lot of fun.

There was really too much information to take in during the day and I’ll probably only be confident identifying a few of the things we tried – but it still was an excellent day and a great introduction to the potential finds out there. I’d highly recommend going on such a walk and we’ll certainly go on more in different locations/seasons.

Some of the things we tried (in rough order of trying them):
Continue reading

Wild Food Fun: Wood-Sorrel aka Oxalis

I spotted a little patch of wood-sorrel in the woods while out walking the dog the other day – at first I thought it was clover but then I noticed the flowers were very different and a quick swizz in my wild flowers book positively identified it was wood-sorrel.

People have apparently eaten wood-sorrel for thousands of years – as both a food and for medicinal purposes. As there only seemed to be a small patch of it, we didn’t want to take too much – enough for a full salad or whatever – but tried a few leaves each.

At first, it didn’t seem to have any flavour at all but it quickly built up. I’d make the mistake of having something strong flavoured (a lemon-flavoured Nufofen Meltlet) before I left the house so I didn’t get an accurate picture of it but it was a little bitter, quite green* with a slightly spicy/peppery after taste. John said he thought there was a hint of lemoniness – not the whole time but just when he first bit into the leaf. Other people have described it as sour and I thought this might fit with John’s lemoniness but he said that wasn’t the case – it was nice lemon without the offputting sour. Apparently the dried leaves of common wood-sorrel can make a lemony-tasting tea so John isn’t lying – I’ll have to try it again when I’ve not got fake lemon in my mouth already.

* Between ourselves, John & I often describe things as tasting “green” – for example, salad is sometimes too green tasting and the wild garlic pesto we made a few years ago using older/post-flower wild garlic leaves was far too green – but we’ve never been able to accurately describe what “green” is, other than it being a bit bitter. Anyway, reading about wood-sorrel & the Oxalis genus, I’ve ended up reading a lot about oxalic acid too and I wonder if this is what our “green” is. Oxalic acid is found in a lot of green leafy edibles from lettuce to spinach & broccoli but is toxic to humans if they eat too much of it – it’s highly concentrated in rhubarb leaves and is what makes them poisonous to us – but is said to be “generally of little or no consequence” to people with a normal balanced diet & regular kidney function. Oxalic acid apparently tastes a little sour, which isn’t a million miles from our “bit bitter” description.

Wild Food Fun: Cleavers/grassgoose/stickybud leaves

I tried some cleavers today – ie, grassgoose, Galium aparine, or more commonly around here, the stickybud plant.

Since the plants are young and sprightly at the moment, I tried the leaves, which don’t exact garner winning reviews from my wild food books – one calls them “too bitter” to bother with, another says they make “tolerable if stringy eating”. I thought they were … ok. Bitter, yes, but not much more so than rocket. I only like rocket about every fifth time I eat it though so it’s not exactly my favourite taste. It wasn’t off-putting enough that I wouldn’t try again (especially since I’ve read somewhere that people usually need to try a new flavour about ten times before they like it) but it’s not going to make it onto my favourite food list.

I’m interested in trying the buds steeped to make a hot drink later in the season…

Wild Food Fun: Whitby Crab and Wild Garlic Risotto

A change from my last very quick and easy wild garlic (Ramsons) meal – I made crab & wild garlic risotto for dinner today.

I got two dressed crabs from Leeds Farmers Market – the guy gave me a free one because he wasn’t doing another market for a few days and they don’t freeze them, so I decided to do something a little different than my usual, which is gobbling them down with some bread & salad. I found a crab and leek risotto recipe online and thought wild garlic would do instead.

I’m not the risotto maker in this house but John was out (and doesn’t like crab anyway) so I just bodged it. I knew I didn’t want to cook either the crab or wild garlic for too long so I made a very plain standard base with the rice (although as a nod to the to-be-added ingredients, I added lemon juice to the stock) and added the crab and the wild garlic (roughly cut again) just before the parmesan at the end.

The risotto was very fresh and light – the crab quite delicate but definitely there; ditto the wild garlic. The leaves were mostly wilted like spinach and I was glad I’d cut them up a bit.

Wild Food Fun: Wild Garlic (Ramsons) potato cakes

I had my first wild garlic of the season today! The woods behind our house are *full* of it – the banks of the stream on both sides are five foot deep with it, mostly just small baby leaves at the moment but some bigger leaves too.

I picked some – a large handful – while on my lunchtime walk with Lily. Because they’re *everywhere*, it was easy to pick up some from slightly off the beaten track and I nibbled a leaf as I walked back to the house.

In the kitchen, I squished the roughly chopped wild garlic leaves into some leftover mashed potato and added a beaten egg as a binder, then shallow fried them until golden brown-ish. In the other side of the pan, I fried up some smoked bacon and ate them together with a giant grin on my face.

In the past, we’ve done slightly more elaborate things with wild garlic – eg, the ubiquitous pesto – but this was very simple and delicious!