Saturday, 28 January 2012

Wild Plants for January

Here are a list of wild plants that can be used for salads, green smoothies and tea during this very mild January. These plants can be found in most British gardens.

Cat's Ear (Hypochoeris radicata) The very young small leaves are available now and good for salads as they are not too bitter at the moment. It is easier to identify these leaves if you already know where the plants are. The yellow flowers are also edible raw but are not available at this time of year.

Chickweed (Stellaria media) The leaves, flowers and stems are edible raw. They are soft with a bland taste and good for salads and tea. Since this is very mild tasting it is good for those who haven't tried wild greens before.

Cleavers (Galium aparine)
Cleavers (Galium aparine) The top 5cm of the soft growing tips are good for salads and the rest of the plant is good for tea. This dries well for later use especially for the summer when this plant dies down.

Common Plantain (Plantago major) The young leaves and seeds are edible raw. Only the leaves are available now. The older leaves are very tough but good for tea if you can't bear to eat them raw. The leaves and seeds dry well for use as a tea later on.

Cowslip (Primula veris) The young leaves and flowers are edible raw. The leaves are available now.

Daisy (Bellis perennis) The flowers, flower buds and leaves are edible raw. The odd flower can sometimes be found but mostly just the lemon flavoured leaves at this time of year. They are a nice flavour for salads.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) All parts of this plant are edible raw. The leaves and occasional flower are around now and the leaves are less bitter during the very cold weather.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria officinalis or petiolata) The whole plant is edible raw and the young leaves are available now. They are hot. The whole plant is hot but the roots are real bad!

Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) The leaves, stems and flowers are edible raw and all available now.

Nettle (Urtica dioica) The leaves, stems and shoots are edible raw and available now. Use nettles in green smoothies or make a tea out of them. In both cases, the sting is removed and won't do any harm.

Rosehips (Rosa canina)
Rose (Rosa species) The flowers, fruit (rosehips) and seed are edible raw but the flowers are not available now. The rosehips are what you are after at this time of year. The frosts should have softened the hard red skin but you need to remove the seed before eating. This is because the tiny hairs on the seed are a skin irritant. However, the seeds themselves are actually edible raw. An easy way to remove the hairs from the seed is by cutting the red hips in half and drying them in a dehydrator. Then grind them roughly in a food processor. Place in a sieve and shake well over some paper. The hairs should fall through on to the paper and can be discarded.

Smooth Sow's Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)
Smooth Sow's Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) The leaves, stalks, flowers and flower buds are edible raw. This is a biennial plant and the second year plants have just finished flowering in my garden. There are a few large leaves still available on these but they are really finished now. However, look out for first year plants whose basal leaves are growing flat on the ground (similar to the Dandelion). This plant isn't prickly and can be picked by hand. This is a good salad plant. There is little or no bitterness in the leaves but sometimes bitterness in the flowers.

Wild Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) The flowers, leaves, roots and seed are edible raw. However, only the leaves and roots are available now. These lemon flavoured leaves are excellent for salads.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) The tiny feathery leaves barely have any bitterness at this time and are good for salads. Once the plant grows, it becomes quite bitter but it can still be used by making it into a tea when all the bitterness is lost.

1 comment:

  1. Cleavers (aka Goosegrass, and many other names): seeds can make a kind of coffee, but very easy to overroast!
    Dandelion: it’s supposed to help of you blanche the shoots, starving them of light.
    Garlic Mustard: as in many spring greens, flavour is milder early on. Seeds (as with probably many in this family) can be ground and water added for mustard. A prolific biennial weed if allowed to seed.
    Nettle: leather gardening gloves are useful for gathering. Develops unhealthy properties later in the season.
    Smooth Sow Thistle: I’d probably call this an annual capable of developing overwinter! You’ll know if you’ve mistakenly got the similar prickly sow thistle instead, rather uncomfortable in the mouth.