Top 10 Grassland Wild Food Finds
10. Common Sorrel
Common Sorrel, also called narrow-leaved dock, is a very common herb found mostly in grassland habitats, but is also cultivated as a garden herb or salad vegetable. The shiny, green-to-reddish leaves of this plant may be puréed in soups and sauces or added to salads and pastries such as tarts. They have a flavour that is similar to sharp, sour apple skin, due to the prescence of oxalic acid. Common Sorrel is very hardy and can be found all year-round.
Common Heal-all (also known as Self-Heal, Woundwort or Heart-of-the-Earth), is a common grassland plant that is native to Europe. Self-Heal has lance-shaped leaves and two-lipped, tubular purple flowers that sprout from a whirled cluster at the top of the plant between May and August. The plant is reputed to have a range of powerful medicinal uses, and is edible in it's entirety, with the young leaves, flowers and stems commonly used raw in salads, cooked in soups and stews, boiled as a pot herb, or used to make teas, tinctures and infusions.
8. Red Clover
Red Clover is a herbaceous species of flowering plant in the bean family and is native to Europe. Red clover's flowers and leaves are edible, and can be added as garnishes to any dish. They can be ground into a flour, or used to make jelly and teas, and their essential oil can be extracted for use in aromatherapy. We commonly use them to make Red Clover Syrup, using the flower heads, Demerara sugar and lemon juice.
A relative of Sage, Mugwort is a tall, fragrant plant that is native to Europe. It is very common in the UK, growing mainly on uncultivated land, in waste places, and roadsides. The plant produces long stems with small red to greenish-yellow flowers in late summer and early autumn. As a fragrant herb, Mugwort can be used to add flavour to a range of dishes and is the traditional herb used to flavour the Christmas Goose in Germany.
Nothing quite beats the delicate honey fragrance of Meadowsweet on a warm, sunny day. This edible plant is very common throughout the UK and makes a great showing along riverbanks and country roadsides. The young shoots can be eaten raw in salads, and it is also a popular constituent of cordial, wine, champagne, beer, mead, and many vinegars. The fresh flowers can be added to stewed fruit and jams, and many desserts, giving them a subtle almond flavor, and the dried flowers are also used in teas, washes, and tinctures, as well as potpourri.
5. Wild Thyme
Wild Thyme, also known as Mother of Thyme, Creeping Thyme, or Elfin Thyme, is a creeping, dwarf evergreen shrub with woody stems and a taproot, native to most of Europe and North Africa. It can be found on chalk downs, meadows, heaths, and among rocks or dry stone walls. It has pretty pink, magenta, or sometimes white flowers, and creates a dense carpet across the ground. When crushed, the plant releases a fragrant herby scent. Wild Thyme can be used just like cultivated thyme to flavour meat and vegetables dishes, create interesting bread dough, infuse oil and make teas.
Puffballs are a great beginner's edible mushroom as they are quite easy to ID due to them being squishy balls of white sponge covered with a tough skin, which sometimes contains tiny spines. Some, like the Giant Puffball, can grow pretty huge, but most are small-medium sized, and can be found growing on both living and dead wood, and in grass. Young Puffballs have a pleasant mushroom smell and mild taste.
3. Wild Strawberry
Wild Strawberry, commonly called Woodland or Alpine Strawberry, grows naturally throughout much of the UK and is found in a range of habitats, including young woodland trails, roadsides, embankments, hillsides, meadows and dry stone walls. The berries of the wild strawberry, although small, are beautifully sweet and are used in much the same way as it's larger garden counterpart.
Heather is synonymous with Scotland, and white heather in particular, is regarded in Scotland as being very lucky, a tradition believed to have been brought from Balmoral to England by Queen Victoria. As such, sprigs of it are often sold as a charm, or worked into bridal bouquets. As an edible, the flowers are mainly used in the creation of alcoholic drinks, such as beer or wine, or used to create Moorland Tea, which is our primary use for it. Arthur enjoys our trips to the Moors to gather Heather, mostly because he gets to gorge himself on another Moorland plant, the Bilberry!
Bilberries, sometimes known as European or Swedish Blueberries, Whortleberry, or Blaeberry in Scotland, is a species of low-growing shrub that is native to Europe, bearing edible, dark blue berries in late summer. Bilberries were the first foraged item that Arthur was introduced to and are one of his favourite berries. We use them in lots of recipes, from crumbles and fools, to pies and pastries, and add them to porridge, smoothies, fruit salads, yogurts, and ice cream. We also use them to make syrup or cordial.