Mid-May and early June is the perfect time to go foraging for a little wild food here in the Peak District of Derbyshire. While there are plenty of edible greens around as early as March, May allows us to spend more time outdoors, getting close to nature and understanding our local environment better. And what better way to understand your local environment than to eat directly from the land? Eating locally and seasonally is a central part of a macrobiotic diet, and here at the Macrobiotic Shop we can often be found sampling local wild food.
At the same time, we recognise that under the current agricultural model in the UK, there is a real shortage of local ingredients to make up a healthy plant-based diet. So we tend to be pragmatic rather than purist, combining the best of local wild food with high quality organic ingredients bought from reliable sources.
There is a real abundance of wild greens around right now. Even for those of us living in cities, green spaces such as parks, hedges or even ‘wasteland’ can provide some really great ingredients for a delicious meal, such as the Elderflower buds we turned into a simple buckwheat tempura, a wild garlic and chickpea farinata and the other greens we used for a great seitan stir fry.
We started off by wandering our nearby lanes and footpaths in search of edibles. Now is a good time of year to look for tender greens, such as Elderflower buds, nettle tips, dandelion leaves, goose grass, wild garlic and white dead nettle leaves. All of these are fairly common throughout the UK, so you should be able to do the same yourself fairly easily. Unlike domesticated plants, wild plants don’t feed fertilisers to grow or pesticides to keep them from being eaten by slugs and insects. As a result, the tastes can be a little strong at first to anyone new to wild foods. But it has only been in the past few hundred years that we have relied so heavily on domesticated species. In addition to the more flavourful tastes and interesting textures, wild foods contain an abundance of nutrients. Some, such as nettles and dandelions, contain surprising amounts of iron, protein and calcium while others, such as Elderflower buds, are a very good source of antioxidants and have strong healing powers.
Any good foraging trip should be accompanied by a little outdoor cooking. On such trips we always take along our Kelly Kettle which allows us to make a nice brew of nettle tea or green tea, just using small scraps of wood for fuel. With the embers you can also heat a snack if you have happened to bring one along. In our case we just had a couple of Terrasana Hazelnut Waffles to balance out the nettle tea we had just made from leaves picked along the way.
Unlike domesticated plants, wild ones don’t thrive very long out of the soil, so it’s important to cook and eat them quickly. This also encourages less waste, which is a little counter-intuitive, considering that we pay money for domesticated plants while wild ones can be had for free.
Our meal started with a simple buckwheat and millet flour tempura, which is a fantastic way to cook the Elderflower buds we had harvested. The buds are a little like broccoli in texture, but with a more subtle flavour. This was followed by a simple stir fry consisting of Bertyn tamari seitan, carrots, onion, wild garlic, goose grass, dandelion, nettle tips and white dead nettle leaves. This was flavoured with a touch of maple syrup, mirin and shoyu. All of this was backed up with a wild garlic and chickpea farinata.
Take advantage of the long summer days to get out there and explore your own local environment while also enjoying some really wonderful local food in the meantime. For anyone interested in using wild food in macrobiotic cooking, why not contact us or come along to one of our cooking classes?