February foraging and garden projects
February is upon us, and despite the cold weather, there's plenty to be getting on with in the garden and in the countryside
Alexanders is one of the first edible plants of the foraging year. You can find it along rivers, watercourses and woodland edges. An escapee from Roman gardens, where it was grown as a pot herb, it can often be found around towns and cities that were once occupied by the Romans.
Alexanders belongs to the Umbelliferae family, which has some deadly members, such as hemlock. It’s quite easy to tell the difference between alexanders and hemlock at a glance, but always consult a guidebook to be safe. Alexanders flowers in late spring, has yellow flowers and a celery-like smell. The deadly hemlock, on the other hand, has an unpleasant smell resembling mouse urine, and its flowers, which often appear in early summer, are white.
Alexanders leaves and stems have such an individual taste – somewhere between celery and parsley – they can be served very simply. Gently steam them for a few minutes and serve with melted butter.
Plant a fruit tree
The easiest way to ensure wild food is at hand is to plant a fruit tree. The dormant winter period is the best time to do this,
as it prevents the tree from going into shock.
Take care when choosing your site, ensuring that your tree will get plenty of light and the soil is free draining. Also think about how the tree will look fully grown, both above and below ground. Above ground, fully grown trees can restrict access and block light, while underground roots can damage foundations.
When digging your hole, dig only slightly deeper than the soil it was originally in and three times wider than the root ball. Put your tree in the hole and back fill with a good compost.
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
125ml (¼pt) vinegar
250ml (½pt) water
5 whole cloves
½ Bay leaf
1 dried chilli
Method Place the eggs into a jar. Combine the other ingredients in a small saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 mins. Strain liquid and allow to cool to room temperature before pouring over eggs. Leave for a month before opening.
2tsp crushed peppercorns
2tsp roughly crushed allspice berries
2tsp ground ginger
1ltr (2pts) wine or herb vinegar
16 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
Place the eggs into a large jar. Put the seasoning in a bit of muslin and tie with string. Pour the vinegar into a saucepan and add the spice bag. Simmer for 20 mins in a covered pan. Stand for two hours to allow the spices to infuse before removing the spice bag. Pour the liquid into the sterilised jar, making sure the eggs are immersed. Leave for a month before opening.
Author: Andy Hamilton