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Into the Woods March 2020

Blackthorn blossom

Wild garlic in the woods

This has been a strange month. With Corvid-19 arriving in the UK and us going from a bit of extra vigilance to total lockdown. Nature doesn’t care about that though and March is the time that plants and trees really start to bloom. Spring flowers such as daffodils, celandines and primroses are all out now, it is very much the yellow season. So I have been out for my sanity walk, as I call it, keeping local and realising how lucky I am to live somewhere so green and beautiful. The blackthorn is now in blossom, it is the first of our trees to burst into flower. Its flowers  looks like tiny white stars against the bark and thorns. It always reminds me that spring is now here.

I went on my second foraging course this year too, at the start of the month. Don’t know when the next one will be, but I really enjoyed it despite the rain. It rained from start to finish, clearing up nicely for the afternoon! Even though it was only a few weeks after the first foraging the plants were very different. Cow slips, another striking yellow flower, were blooming. These plants have been used to make wine in the past but now it is illegal to pick them. Which is good as they brighten up bare bits of ground.

Cow slips

Sorrel leaves in grass

We also found common sorrel which is one of my favourite plants to eat. The leaves have a fresh citrus flavour. I love it so much I bought a packet of seeds to grow it at home. Dock leaves are also edible and the young leaves quite pleasant. They can be picked and combined with wild garlic, dandelions and rocket to make a slightly bitter and pungent salad. I added wild garlic, 3 cornered leeks and shredded dock to an omelette along with some goat’s cheese for a tasty lunch.

Wild garlic is starting to take over the woods near where I live. In a week or so the flowers will open but at the moment the leaves are in abundance. You can smell them as soon as you enter the woods. A pungent smell of onions and garlic, I knew them as ‘Stinking Nannies’ or ‘Stinking Grandads’ as I renamed them – ever the feminist! It is a wonderful smell.

Hawthorn leaves are opening and these, as well as the flowers and berries, are edible. Known as bread and cheese, not because of the taste but because they are full of nutrients, they taste slightly nutty and fresh. Lovely to munch on as you want around the hedgerows

Alexanders

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The most interesting plant we looked at this time was pignut. It is not a real nut but a small unassuming plant in the spring when it is used. If you dig down then the roots form a tuber which can be eaten raw or cooked and are very tasty, so I have heard. I haven’t tried them myself.

Where I live there are lots of Alexanders. There plants grow around coastal areas only and can be found all over. They grow quite tall and the flowers and seeds are edible. You can cook the flower heads by dipping in batter and frying or the stalks, picked young can be eaten boiled. If you collect the seeds they can be used to flavour vodka and make gin or as a pepper substitute.

March is a beautiful time of year. As you wander around the woods and hedgerows nearby you can almost forget about everything else going on. So make the most of your daily walk and get outside and explore the plants growing where you live.