The Coastal Wanderer
The one reason you need to be on a North wales shoreline this weekend.
As the great wheel of the seasons turns ever closer to spring, the pace of north wales coastal life picks up. The dawn chorus grows in intensity, the days get longer and the new shoots of life start to push through. You might think that at first glance the rocky shore or storm beach are devoid of anything but flotsam, jetsam, discarded flipflops and seagulls. But you are just so wrong, come down to the strand with me and discover edibles that will astound your taste buds and open your eyes to a brand new range of super fresh, free super foods.
Alexanders: Smyrnium Olusatrum
To me, once you have your eye in on this one you will be amazed how you missed this one for so long. It looks like Hogweed but with yellow blossom not white. It is limited to the coastal areas of England and Wales. It’s spreading rapidly as climate changes. It was supposedly brought in by the Romans, true or not I do know it makes a great pot herb. The leaves are great steamed, the young stems can be lightly peeled, tossed in butter for 30 secs and eaten as a veg. Super with steak. The green seeds can be dry fried and added to a salad for a nutty crunch. Stem and leaf great for a mixed salad.
Sea Beet-Beta Vulgaris
Sea Beet is as common as Alexanders around the North Wales coast. A lush deep green fairly thick leaf which will knock the spots of any organic spinach. Great dropped into some freshly cooked cockles and mussels. Equally as tasty as a green salad.
Scurvy Grass: Cochlearia Officinalis
Scurvy grass is a neat unassuming plant hugging close to the ground above the high tide line. A member of the brassica family, such as sea radish, mustards. In the days of sail scurvy grass was harvested by sailors to be salted to help stave off scurvy during long sea voyages. It is jam-packed with vitamin C. The flavour is strongly – and potentially overpoweringly – mustard/horseradish, which is why it gets such bad reviews. Try picking the choice young leaves taking them down to a puree with a little dab of mayonnaise you have the best, freshest wasabi type sauce which goes with any oily fish sushi style. Trust me you will love it ( it will clear the most stubborn sinus).
Nettles- Urtica Dioica
Strong young emerging nettles are the universal super food, full of minerals, vitamins, Iron. Pick the tops and wilt over a fire or steam to make good veg. Its good in soup (Potato and nettle). Let the nettles cool and add to a smoothie mix. Nettles are good for those suffering with allergies, hayfever and asthma. But watch out the young nettle has a mighty sting which will leave your hands tingling for hours. As a bushcrafter I work with nettles all the time getting stung is minor hazard, but over the last few years I have noticed my hayfever and asthma has virtually disappeared?
Ransoms /Wild Garlic -Allium Ursinum
Now this little plant is easy to find in shade groves and woodlands across the UK. You know when you are coming close, the aroma is unforgettable. This time of the year along the Welsh coast is great. Look for a location where the woods come down to the shore and there could be carpets of ransoms. The flower heads (open) are great in salads. The closed flowers head pack a punch, great sprinkled into pasta or tossed in a little butter to top a fresh grilled bass fillet. The leaves I puree with olive oil and freeze down in ice cube trays and just use general cooking use. Taste far better than normal garlic and no bad breath days. Ransoms and Sea Beet are the base for making a great Pesto type pasta sauce.
Serrated wrack – Fucus serratus
Seaweed is really underrated for our health This wrack is common on most rocky shorelines. Collect some and try this. Wash your Wrack place it in a muslin cloth, dry porridge oats and some fresh rosemary. Close up the cloth and hang it from the hot water tap of the bath. As the hot water through the cloth your bath with fill with oat seaweed milk. Have a good old soak, your skin will feel great and you will absorb some of the minerals Dab your face a couple of times letting your face dry. Wash it off, it will take years off you (well maybe).
kelp is a wide family of brown sea weed which to be honest does not taste too great to our western pallet. However, heat (not to the boil) some milk and kelp together and leave to cool to luke warm and strain. Add vanilla and fruit, chill and you will have the most wonderful fruit blancmange. The kelps hold natural sugars and alginates. Try it, it works. I find this odd, as other strong wild flavours such as horseradish, watercress and cuckooflower tend to get rave reviews. If used properly as a spice, condiment, pesto ingredient or small proportion of a salad, and at its correct stage of growth, the full-blooded mustardy punch of scurvy grass can be superb. I see it in an even better light as I don’t find wild horseradish in Galloway, so I use it with beef and blitzed down with the infinitely more pungent sea rocket as a wasabi substitute with wild coastal sushi. Kapow! Also, there is no holy law decreeing that “seasoning” must comprise of salt and pepper – try chopping scurvy grass up, drying and crumbling.
A note of caution: always pick wild food respectfully, take small amounts, do not waste and do your studying before you pick. If foraging on the shore “Know your tides”. Don’t pick in dog walking areas. For the obvious reasons try not to forage near manmade structures. If you’re are unsure, walk out on a forage walk with somebody who can guide you. If you still unsure walk on by.
Dave Runs courses through the year, to which I have been lucky enough to attend. They are a fantastic way to break into bushcraft, foraging and wild food. He runs courses for beginners that are new to it all, or if your more seasoned in the bushcraft arts he also runs courses that cater for advanced learners too. A Ghilli come chef, his skills are a rare blend, that marry bushcraft into a wonderful culinary experience.