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Eating wild

Categories: News and previews

As this year’s Chelsea Fringe draws to a close we take a look back at Find and Feast, one of the events of the festival, held here at Borough Market

Wander around London on any typical day and it’s likely traffic, crowds and buildings frame much of your environment. Amble around the city with foraging expert Ceri Buckmaster, and your surroundings become different entirely.

Leading walks in London’s green spaces since 2008, Ceri’s aim is to get people talking about wild food, inspired by the wild plants that grow in urban areas, as well as by the people and diverse food traditions present in the city. As part of this year’s Chelsea Fringe festival, she took a delighted party around the green spaces of Southwark, for a glimpse into her foraging world.

Normally unnoticed—and certainly unexpected—wild food appeared from all corners of the parks, places and streets we passed. Ceri offered a plethora of advice—and we thought we’d share just some of the edible wild plants we spotted below, including how best to eat the stuff:

Garlic mustard

Garlic mustard
A very common plant, there’s plenty out there to forage. Young plants are milder, but still flavourful—toss into a batch of mashed potato or add some finely chopped leaves into a salad along with your favourite grain.

Chickweed

Chickweed
Some say eating chickweed is like eating a wild and tasty lettuce or mild-tasting spinach. Either way, it’s delicious! Finest in the spring, like most wild plants it’s best eaten soon after harvesting. Try using chickweed in sandwiches, wraps and quiches.

Comfrey

Comfrey
A member of the borage family, comfrey has a faint cucumber flavor, perfect for use in fritters or soups. It can be slightly bitter, however—an element which becomes more pronounced when overcooked, so err on the cautious side.

Yarrow

Yarrow
An ancient herb, yarrow is strong and peppery, a heavenly addition to stews or stir-frys. If you find the taste a bit too powerful alone, try it mixed in recipes with other soft herbs such as parsley. It’s great with fruit, too.

Other edible goodies Ceri mentioned included burdock, the leaves of which are a great sub for banana leaves when parceling up food; sea purslane, which adds saltiness to any dish; ribwort plantain, the seed heads of which, when ready, are ideal soup-thickeners; and sow thistle, which is surprisingly good in lasagna, due to its really meaty leaves.  

Ceri’s top tips for wild food foraging:
Start small. Have one to five plants that you can identify and feel confident foraging
Don’t pick on a busy road
Never strip a plant of all its goodness—be safe and kind
Wash your goods once harvested and check for any nasties
If in doubt, leave it out!

So why not escape the city for a few hours and add a new dimension to your food. You never know what you might find!