Wild peas, tiny and pretty, fresh and sweet, growing in a lane-way near you
A fellow food lover and baker of Real Bread recently asked me "How come you don't live in the country?", I looked at him with my one good eye and said "I can't afford the petrol".
The truth is I like living in the city, amongst people, though I do find myself "visiting" a lot of my shire-dwelling friends on gorgeous, sunny evenings, to take a wander down their avenues, avoid young bullocks (as if!) and enjoy the many beauties and benefits of wild, open spaces.
When Mick Kelly, famous for his pioneering work in GIY, asked me to speak on the stage at Bloom this year, I was naturally delighted. When I saw that I'm in the slot just before the bastion of Irish food and cooking, Darina Allen, I thought 'I'd better do something more than just firing a few plants into a few pots'. On a stroll in the city the otehr night, along the Condell road, which is so like being in the countryside, because it is, I was struck by the nuber of wild species growing along the walkway and in the hedgerows and figured that Wild Food is all the rage and isn't just confined to rural areas, plants aren't fussy and they decide themselves where they can and can't grow. Turning plants into edibles is part of what I do so I reckoned a recipe using a common (or garden!) plant species will make a lot of sense. So first I went a looking and here's what I found in our lovely Limerick City.
Nettles; they're everywhere, they tell us that the soil is full of nitrogen and they are great for eating. I recently made a delicious nettle soup in my vegetarian cooking class at the school, much to the surprise of a group of women who'd never, ever ingested these nutrient rich beauties. Nettles increase the haemoglobin in the blood and improve circulation, they are great for rheumatism and lower blood pressure and cost you? nada. Nettles, they say, are best eaten in May, the young tops only and ideally not from the side of a busy motorway.
Gorse, the Furze bush, is bursting in its colourful profusion along stoney, rough, grassy places. It makes delicous wine and tastes like coconut. It's tricky to gather with it's prickly branches, so be armed with good strong gloves.
Dandelion; a perennial herb, lovingly called Pissy Beds after the French Pis-en-lit or the French Dent de Lion, or Lion's teeth, so-called for it's pointy leaves which can be eaten straight from the ground, as can the heads. The dandelion head is bursting with vitamin C and the elaves have a multitude of uses, like spinach and can be used in salads, and the root makes a popuar coffee substitute. You can batter the flower heads and fry them in butter for an indulgent treat
Wild peas, tiny and pretty, fresh and sweet, growing on a lane-way near you.
Chickweed, loves to invade every pot I have on my roof-garden. It makes a tasty nutrient-rich salad when mixed with chopped apples, and needs little preparation.
Wild strawberries, or Alpine Strawberries, have a unique flavour but rely heavily on some sunshine to ripen them, so they're not so common. I have lots of strawberry plants after taking hold on the roof here, with nature taking its own course.
Wine can be made from the leaves of Oak trees, a drink called Noyu, from the Beech. We are mostly familiar with the explosive and delicios properties of Elderflowers and berries and Wild Garlic has become the new Fois Gras. The next time you go walking, keep your eyes peeled and your mouth ready for some tasty snacks, and I hope to see you at Bloom at 2pm on Thursday May 30th, at the main Woodies stage where I'll be making this, Nettle Pesto. I'm on just before Darina, eeek, so I'd better not make a balls of it.
Nettle Pesto is easy and yummy, not to mention pretty cheap if you don't count the olive oil, parmesan and pine nuts. I'll be aiming to blag some Irish Rapeseed Oil, Desmond Cheese and bits and bobs from food producers to make an even Irisher version of the much loved green tastiness.
1 clove garlic, crushed
Pine nuts or brazils
Parmesan or similar
Slat n pepper
Blanch your nettles on hot water for five minutes, strain them, squeeze the water out and chop them finely
In a mortar and pestle, squash your garlic, add the nettles and pound them well, drizzle in the oilve oil and mix until you have a nice runny consistency. Stir in some grated parmesan and crushed pine nuts, season well and serve with dipping bread, pasta or whatever you fancy.
Closer to home, anybody interested in land access and allotment provision from our beloved Council in Limerick can come to a meeting in Kilmurray Lodge, Monday June 3rd at 8pm to set up Allotments in Raheen, power in numbers and all that. See you at Bloom or there, enjoy the sunshine!