What to forage in the garden
Beth Al Rikabi is your guide to wild edible plants you can find in the garden, plus four foraging recipes for you to try, including dandelion flower honey and elderflower cordial
For many of us taking part in No Mow May – a national campaign encouraging people to leave their lawns uncut throughout May to benefit wildlife – there are a whole host of edible plants in our gardens just waiting to be picked for dinner.
Beth Al Rikabi, a free range chef creating seasonal, foraged vegetarian food for retreats and supper clubs, shares the joy of finding wild food in your garden, what edible plants you can find, plus four recipes for you to try.
Beth, how did you start foraging?
In the first lockdown, as with lots of other people, I was gifted a lot of time because all of my work was cancelled. I explored my local area and went on lots of walks. That’s really when I started looking around me and seeing what was in the surrounding fields and hedgerows, and in my own garden. I got very excited!
Tell us more about foraging in your garden – how did that come about?
I wasn’t really going to supermarkets during lockdown. I remember I wanted to make a pesto, so I just wondered into the garden and picked dandelions, primrose leaves, cleavers and some sage, and blitzed all that up with some nuts, garlic and oil. The best thing of all was that my daughter Esme ate it. It made me very happy to know that I could just grab a handful of stuff from the garden, blitz it and say “Here you go, dear."
What is the joy you find in foraging?
It connects you to the place that you’re in – you’re literally connecting with the roots of where you are. To belong and to connect with where you are is the simplest human need.
Also, engaging with the seasons gets you into more of a cyclical mindset. You might see some elderflower that’s passed its best and think ‘Oh no, I didn’t get to do anything with it’, but then you remember it will be back next next year. I’m one for looking back and reminiscing a lot, which makes me feel sad, so the more I can connect with nature and the seasons, the more I find comfort in the cycle of things.
How else can foraging change one’s mindset?
Knowing that there are things around you that you can eat, it makes you question what you’re spending your money on, and where you’re sourcing your ingredients from. It makes you ask yourself, “Do I really need to buy that supermarket bag of basil from Kenya?”.
What’s your favourite ingredient to forage?
Sorrel. I first discovered it on a walk with a foraging guide and I remember tasting this tiny green leaf and getting this explosion of lemony zestiness. It blew my mind. Recently I had it sliced up and sprinkled on asparagus.
What edibles can you typically find in the garden?
On a lawn you can find yarrow, which is great added to salads, and cleavers, also known as 'sticky willy'. Cleavers are a very nutritious, cleansing herb – I like to infuse it in water in the fridge for a few hours. It imparts a cucumber flavour. All parts of a dandelion are edible – I like to use the petals to make honey, and the leaves go nice with pecans in a pesto. Some people might have elderflower, hawthorn or cherry blossoms in their garden. All of these are good infused in cordials, syrups or jams.
Beth's garden foraging recipes
Beth shares her recipe for dandelion flower honey, a sweet syrup that can be spread on toast, drizzled on pancakes or stirred into a summer gin fizz cocktail.
Beth's recipe for cherry blossom jam, which has a delicate, almondy flavour.
Beth's recipe for a tasty and nutritious pesto, using cleavers and nettles foraged from the garden.
Abigail is a freelance writer and editor based in Hereford.
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