My mother, my daughter and I spent a few days this week on the Hampshire coast, where we spotted a whole lot of familiar and some more unusual edibles, among a host of wild flowers and natives. A welcome change from Vicky Park.
Armeria maritima (sea thrift), a small perennial adapted to coastal environments.
Ulex europaeus (gorse), an evergreen shrub adapted to extreme dry conditions. The flowers are edible, high in protein, and could be used in salads, or made into tea. This recipe for gorse flower cordial is really making me wish I’d brought some home with me, as is this one, for gorse flower wine.
A young Pteridium aquilinum, or bracken – commonly cooked as a vegetable in Korea, China and Japan, but thought to be responsible for the area’s high levels of stomach cancer, so not recommended.
Silene vulgaris, or bladder campion, is a common ingredient in Spanish cooking, where the leaves, known as “collejas” are used in salads or added to stews.
(left) Equisetum arvense, or common horsetail, is rich in calcium and its tips can be eaten as a vegetable. It is a diuretic and can be used to treat kidney and bladder problems. (right) Cirsium palestre, or marsh thistle, has edible leaves and stems which can be peeled and eaten raw or cooked.
Rumex acetosella, or red sorrel, is a spreading perennial, whose tart leaves can be used in salads and garnishes, or as a curdling agent for cheese.
(left) The flower buds of Leucanthemum vulgare, or oxeye daisy can be used as a substitute for capers, Trifolium pratense (red clover) is made into a tea to treat symptoms of the menopause. (right) Plantago lanceolata, or ribwort plantain, can be cooked as a vegetable or brewed as tea, and its seed husks, known as Psyllium, are sold as an expensive dietary fibre in whole food shops.
(left) The berries of Sambucus nigra, or elder, are used to make jams, the flowerheads to make infusions and elderflower cordial. (right) Anthyllis vulneraria, or kidney vetch, was traditionally known as the “wound healer” and used to soothe skin.
(left) Brassica napus, or rape, is high in essential fatty acids and is heavily cultivated for oil production. Here it grew in the wild on the cliff tops. (right) a field of thrift, red sorrel and rape.
(left) Aquilegia (right) Lupinus beans are pickled and served as a snack similar to olives in several Mediterranean countries, and used in a similar way to soya beans to make tofu.
(left) Silene dioica, or red campion (right) Glechoma hederacea, or ground ivy, is a member of the mint family and can be eaten in salad or infused for a vitamin C-rich tea.