I re-read an article today that I wrote a while ago about foraging for wild food in Liguria. Noticing that I’d described the Ligurians as ‘having a passion for foraging verging on the obsessive’ I had to cringe. Not that I’d changed my opinion of the wonderful enthusiasm that many Italians seem to have when it comes to making the most of wild food. Just that I had to admit that pot and kettle sprang to mind when it came to ‘obsessive’.
Having just nipped up our track and filled a wheelbarrow with comfrey, I seemed to be developing a slightly addictive habit for foraging myself. And not just for food.
I’ve obviously been happily scouring the hedgerows for elderflowers recently for cordials and champagne and earlier in the year the hedgerows were an excellent source of extra greens. During the Spring/early summer ‘hungry gap’ I’m a big fan of adding a few nettles to the meagre supple of spinach and chard in the garden. They’re great for soups or adding to ricotta for Italian style Torta Verde or pasta fillings. I’ve already recounted the wild garlic foraging expedition I went on with Ruby a month or so ago. And of course, later on in the summer I’ll be looking forward to blackberrying. While a trip to the seaside has me thinking about samphire and edible treasures in rockpools.
But recently I’ve found myself scouring the hedgerows for things other than meals. When I’m short of veggies for the pigs I reach for a fork and head off for dandelions and docks. In fact I’ve actually started to think of dandelions as a cut-and-come-again crop. When I lazily attempt to pull them up from the very wet soil (the pigs love the roots) with my hands rather than find a fork or trowel and only the leaves come away in my hands, I throw them to the piggies. Thinking, oh well, they’ll grow again, providing more piggy treats for another day.
The compost heap has also started to benefit. A big fan of comfrey in the garden, I’ve planted lots in all sorts of corners where it’s difficult to grow anything else. Thinking all the time of the wonderful feed for the garden it provides. I strip the leaves and use it as a mulch around veggies and add it to the compost heap along with nettles as they’ll both speed up the composting as well as adding loads of nutrients. But although it’ll no doubt soon be taking over the garden, as it’s recently planted I found myself heading further afield for more rampant comfrey to tide me over.
While heading off with the wheelbarrow for comfrey, I couldn’t help think about the sloes that would be great for gin later in the year and how, after the elderflowers have turned to elderberries, I wouldn’t mind trying elderberry wine this year. A tot of either will convince me that obsessive isn’t a bad thing.