A CORNISH FORAGING WALK
The Cornish landscape is a constant inspiration to our work here at Marräum. And many of the plants on the beaches, hedgerows and countryside around us are not only beautiful, but provide a cornucopia of free and tasty food.
In September, we spent a great team-building day out of the office on a foraging walk, followed by a beach barbecue on the banks of the Helford at Grebe Beach. The lovely Stuart Woodman, whose knowledge of the local flora is incredible, led the walk. We first met him when he worked at Miss Peapods (now Muddy Beach) and have remained in touch ever since. Everyone on the team spent a glorious day out in the open, learning about the uses of different plants that, all too often, we may simply pass by.
On this one walk, we found:
Alexanders (Smyrnium olustraum). This plant, brought over by the Romans, is found frequently in Cornwall, especially near coastal areas. All parts of the plant can be used from the flower buds to the leaves (when young). The stems can be used in both winter and spring and are similar to celery. In the summer, the seeds have a strong spicy flavour, reminiscent of Juniper. After the walk, Emmy-Lou made gin using the Alexander seed.
Wall Pennywort (Umbilicus rupestris) a.k.a Navelwort – Grows out of old walls and rocks where there is moisture, so found in abundance in Cornwall! The leaves are succulent with a bean sprout crunch. Can be used in salads, stir-fries or soups.
Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) – Found in abundance everywhere. Rich in iron and one of the best-known wild superfoods. Most tender in the early spring, but later in the year pick the small top leaves. Use nettles as a substitute for spinach in cooking, and the leaves can be dried to make delicious, nutrient rich, herbal tea.
Hemlock Water Dropwort (Oenanthe fistulosa) – It’s worth remembering that many plants can be dangerous, if in doubt, leave alone. This one, for example, is deadly poisonous and should be avoided. We had Stuart guiding us, but it’s important to remember that if you can’t identify a plant, move on and don’t eat it!
Hogweed seeds (Heracleum sphondylium) – The dry brown seedpods have a distinctive and unique flavour of cardamom and bitter orange, beautiful sprinkled on salads or, add to cakes or mulled wine.
Rosehips (Rosa canina) – High in vitamin C, rosehips can be made into tea, or used in jams and sauces. Or, soak in water overnight, place in blender, cook in water and strain: one teaspoon of the pulp contains more than the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
Pineapple Weed (Matricaria matricariodes) – This plant is related to chamomile, but has a distinctive taste and smell of pineapple. Can be eaten raw in salads, or perfect as a snack whilst walking! Can also be dried to make tea in the same way you’d use chamomile.
Ribwort Plantain (Platago lanceolata) – The flower heads are beautiful, and taste of raw mushrooms. Collect these after they have turned brown, but before they get too dry. Whilst too bitter to eat, the leaves make a great antihistamine to use on nettle or insect stings.
Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) a.k.a. Sour Dock – Grows throughout the meadows and hedgerows in Cornwall. This is fresh tasting and brimming with oxalic acid, which is also found in rhubarb, has a beautiful taste of sharp apple peel. You can eat the leaf and stem fresh in salads, or can be cooked like spinach.
Sea Beet (Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima) – a wild sea spinach, the young leaves are delicious when cooked.
Rock Samphire (Crithium maritimum) – As this grows in costal regions, the leaves retain salt so there is no need for extra seasoning. Eat raw in salads, steam or simmer in water for about eight minutes, this is crunchy and has a lovely carrot flavour.
Spear Leaved Orache (Anriplex hastata) – Thrives in salty habitats, so plentiful around Cornwall. The leaves can be cooked and eaten as greens, or added to soups and casseroles, but are best eaten when tender and young or can be rather bitter.
Sea Weeds – Seaweeds contain more minerals than any other vegetable. We tried Pepper Dulse, Red Dulse, and Sea Lettuce
After the walk, we made a fire on the beach, which obviously involved some skilled architectural work in the construction. We then cooked a beautiful vegan lunch of scrambled tofu, wild greens and barbecued veg, washed down with Stuart’s handmade elderflower fizz. This was a wonderful day that reminded us yet again how much we love our lives in Cornwall.