The appearance of wild garlic in the woods has signalled the start of this year’s foraging. So far, wild garlic has been shredded into carbonara, strewn in salads and added to omelettes. Yesterday I blitzed the plateful above, to make pesto. I chucked 50g of toasted pine nuts into the blender (having burnt the first 50g because I wasn’t paying attention), with about four large handfuls of wild garlic (all the leaves you see in the top photograph — I have no idea of the weight, I’m afraid). I squeezed half a lemon into the mix, added a handful of grated parmesan and then whizzed it until the leaves had broken down to create a paste. Several large glugs of olive oil, another whirr and it was done. The work of five minutes, and incredibly delicious. We drizzled this into soup last night (minestrone) and one of the girls ate it on bread. At lunch today, I added a teaspoon to some chopped tomatoes as a speedy salad dressing (word of warning, a little goes a long way). Tonight it will be stirred into linguine. I imagine it keeps for about three to five days in the fridge.
Last year was a vintage year for foraging. It began at around this time with the first of the wild garlic and finished with a spectacular haul of quinces. In May and June I prowled Bristol, secateurs in hand, on the lookout for elderflowers which I used to make gooseberry & elderflower jam and also elderflower & lemon marmalade. Elderflower sprigs were also added to drinks — both V&T and G&T benefitted from a little floral hit. Next came apricot and lavender jam — not strictly a forage, as the ingredients came from my garden and the market respectively, but there was something satisfying about using at least one local and free ingredient. Plums followed, courtesy of my neighbour with whom I share what I make. One batch of plain plum jam and the other with a bit of cinnamon which gave it a warm base note. The before and after shots are above and below. Blackberries were particularly abundant last year — in fact, I still have a couple of tubs of blackberries in the freezer. These were made into simple blackberry jam and also, inspired by Diana Henry, a delicious blackberry and pinot noir number (jam purists out there — just do it, you’ll find you like it!). We had several crumbles too. My foraging went up a gear this year when I started knocking on the doors of total strangers having spied interesting things in their gardens. The greatest success was a glorious 4 kilo haul of quinces in early October. The winter months were hard, however. I looked for sloes, but failed, and I completely forgot about rose hips. But I finished on a positive note, gathering Ivy and clematis vitalba (old man’s beard) on a walk along Narroways which I used for my Christmas wreath. This year, my sights are set on a large patch of nettles and a local medlar tree. And I feel sure that with a little bit of research (and with the weather on my side), I should be able to find something pretty or delicious (or both) each month of the year. I had plans to make rose petal jam again (see here for my first effort). Last year I decided against it as I had to resort to spraying my plants when they were all hit with black spot. Anyway, what do you look forward to foraging each year? And what do you make with what you find?