Foraging in early April

Wood anemone carpet

Beautiful Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) carpet but not much to eat

Earlier in the year, when we agreed to hold a forage walk here with friends, we had no idea that spring was going to be so late. I have to admit to being a little nervous as I looked around our land a week before the walk. I was struggling to find more than hairy bittercress, nettles, pennywort and sorrel to eat. Even the chickweed and goosegrass hadn’t dare show their leaves.

Time to check the books and increase my knowledge. We bought “Wild Food” by Roger Philips many years ago from a second-hand book shop (I’m not sure that it’s even in print now). It quickly gave a few more ideas for things to look out for and I kept the pocket-sized Collins gem “Food for Free” on me at all times.

Foraged additions to our salad

Foraged additions to our salad

As always with gatherings my understanding about what can be eaten from the wild grew enormously on the day as everyone added their knowledge. By the end of the morning we had added to base salad with:

  • (very young) bramble leaves (Rubus fruticosa),
  • dandelion leaves (Taraxacum officinale) – some people added,
  • gorse flowers (Ulex europaeus),
  • hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta),
  • hawthorn leaves (Crataegus monogyna),
  • Navelwort (Umbilicus rupestris)

    Navelwort (Umbilicus rupestris)

  • navelwort (Umbilicus rupestris) – it’s abundant in the woods, and
  • sorrel leaves (Rumex acetosa),

and experimented with making gorse flower tea and cleaver (Galium aparine) tea. So, maybe not up to Fergus the Forager standards yet but it’s a step. We were very lucky that Alison had made wild garlic quiche and nettle soup to further set our wild taste buds racing.

Although one of our group had heard that celandine flowers could be eaten, none of our books covered Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), so we didn’t pick it. However is in “Culpeper’s Complete Herbal” as a cure for the eyes, piles and many other things… I’ll do a little more research before I try it …

Pretty perfect polytunnel

It is almost a year to the day that we started on this polytunnel episode. I am so pleased with the result.

Meet our first indoor growing space:

Polytunnel with raised beds in early Spring (April) 2013

Polytunnel with raised beds in early Spring (April) 2013

We knew from the start that for this polytunnel – the closest to our home – we wanted to include raised beds. It’s a growing space for home grown veg and herbs (rather than trees) and for sitting in on rainy days. We’ve worked in spaces like this before and by just raising the growing space a little it makes it so much easier on the back and knees for sowing and harvesting. The beds are sized so that every bit can be reached from the aisles. The double depth middle bed is two arms lengths deep. It’s also double the height of the side beds.

Breakfast in the polytunnel

Breakfast in the polytunnel. Note the eggs from our chooks!

We had a plentiful supply of well rotted horse manure so these beds are extra fertile! I just can’t wait to get those heavy feeding veggies like squashes planted out (they are in the propagator at the moment).

Before we had finished all of the beds we gave it a trial run as a breakfast space. It’s so warm in there. The perfect start to the day.

You can’t see it in this picture, but in the middle bed we have dug down about 30cm below the soil level and added sticks and new manure as a kind of low hugelkultur (Sepp Holzer) to add long-term fertility to the bed. Then layered well rotted manure and soil on top. We didn’t build a full height hugelkultur because of the shadow it would create in this east-west aligned tunnel, especially in the winter months.

Polytunnel raised bed building team

Polytunnel raised bed building team: Me, Craig, Holly and Wilkie.

We’ve finished creating the raised beds!! Meet the raised bed building team. Thanks guys!

Let’s get growing.