Monday, 22 April 2013

Hedgerow Violets, Dinas Head, Harvesting Wild Food

I found the first violets yesterday and the hedgebanks are begiining to look more spring-like each day. The hedges themselves are slower in that the quickthorn, blackthorn & hawthorn are only just beginning to show glimpses of green. We had one glorious warm shining day on Saturday when we were all out working in the various gardens on the place, though the Farmer was up on a roof fixing tiles most of the time which he said afforded him a splendid view of the toiling gardeners below.

Over the weekend when the weather was so lovely I had a group of Americans staying in the cottage. They were from Colorado where snow had been falling for three days just before they left last week, so Wales in the sunshine was great for them. They went down to Pembrokeshire to walk Dinas Head & could not have seen it  under better conditions.
 Dinas Head is a small promontory between Newport & Fishguard and makes a wonderful circular walk of about 2 hours along the cliff path. The walk passes through the tiny hamlet of Cwm yr Eglwys where the remains of a 12th century church can be seen. The church  was washed away in huge storm in 1859 as well  as a large number of fishing boats. Apparently a storm of almost equal severity hit that coast in the mid-1970's. We have only ever seen it on beautiful clear calm days and it is hard to imagine just how fierce & frightening the storms must have been.

I have been harvesting the first 'wild foods' , wild garlic leaves, ground elder & chickweed, all of which make delicious additons to salads as well as being very nutritious, full of vitamins. Having had a long season of winter salads of cabbage, kale & leeks from the poy-tunnel it is lovely to have fresh outdorr green stuff, though the produce from the poly-tunnel has been wonderful to have through the winter.
The wild garlic or ramsons grow vigourously and have lovely heads of white starry flowers but the leaves add a fine gentle flavour to green salad. Ground elder is an invasive weed of positively Napoleonic ambition and almost impossible to eradicate so we've just learned to live with it and eating does at least make it useful & the flowers are quite attractive though I do spend a lot of time in the summer removing them in the vain hope that by not going to seed the plant will weaken...it doesn't but it makes me feel better! Chickweed is odd little low-growing herb with insignificant flowers but a very delicate & interesting flavour that makes it a good addition to salad dishes.
So, lunch today is a quiche made with organic shiitake mushrooms (www.maesymush.co.uk) & home grown leeks accompanied by foraged green salad with a hemp oil dressing & organic sourdough bread from our friends at Mair's Bakehouse (www.mairsbakehouse.co.uk). I can't wait...but I'd better go & make the quiche!!



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