Read our latest recipe in Sherborne Times pages 54-55
My hardworking friend Emma grows the most delicious vegetables within the Walled Gardens of St Giles House. Her produce is available at local markets and she also offers a box scheme to locals. Each week we look forward to hearing her familiar knock at the door and to be greeted by Emma’s wonderful smile hidden behind a beautifully arranged selection of squeaky ‘just picked’ greens and muddy carrots. However, as we leave the depths of winter and the days start to lengthen, the time when we should be looking forward to early spring, my heart sinks as we approach the ‘hungry gap’. Otherwise known as the few sad weeks when, even in this productive garden, pickings are scarce until the new growth bursts into life.
Our taste buds yearn for iron-rich leafy, green vegetables to steam, puree and stir fry. To seek comfort, we carefully search spray free, woody glades and bridleways foraging for the hardy greens that are determined to lead the way into the new season.
Ramsons or Wild Garlic
Make a vibrant green pesto, or chop the leaves to add to a salad. Later in the season use the leaves to wrap around a canon of lamb before roasting or use in a stuffing for chicken.
Wear gloves to select the tips of the plant. Wash well and use instead of spinach for a risotto, combine with lardoons of crispy bacon and homemade chicken stock to make a tasty soup or pair with goats cheese in a Greek style filo pie.
Caution – Do not eat too many nettles at one time as they may have a laxative effect!
Remember to always seek the land owner’s permission before your harvest wild food for your kitchen table and please always make sure that you are totally confident that you have correctly identified your foraged plants.
Other seasonal treats
Purple sprouting broccoli – brush with olive oil and roast until tender. Serve with a béarnaise sauce and crusty bread to mop up the sauce.
Seakale – a vegetable that tastes similar to asparagus and one of a handful of our true native plants. Due to its popularity in Victorian times when Seakale grew wild on shingle beaches, the plant was forced in a similar manner to rhubarb. During those times it was harvested in great volume and became almost extinct. Seakale is still a protected plant so cannot be foraged but you can try growing at home from seed. Alternatively buy plants online so you can cook this rare delicacy for yourself.
Wild Garlic Pesto
Handful of wild garlic leaves and a bunch of parsley – washed thoroughly
Equal weight of pine nuts to herbs
Grated parmesan to weigh combined weight of pine nuts and herbs
Good olive oil to loosen paste and some more to seal and store
Freshly ground black pepper and a little sea salt to taste
Wash the herbs and remove any hard stalks or damaged leaves.
Roughly chop and then combine with toasted pine nuts in a pestle and mortar or food processor.
Add grated parmesan and continue to blend to desired consistency with olive oil.
Season to taste and place in an airtight container store for up to a week in the fridge covered with a layer of olive oil to seal.