Thursday 6 June saw our first visit to Harehope Quarry near Frosterley, with Bruce from Wild North Discovery. The plan was for a group of 15 women from the Angelou Centre, Newcastle to visit to quarry to find out about wild foraging, which wild foods were on our doorsteps and safe enough to eat. As it happened, only 6 women could make the visits but this turned out to be a great opportunity for the support workers from the centre as well as some of the women on the Black Women’s Leadership Programme to bond and explore together.
Walking out from the classroom purposely built at the head of the quarry for schools and community groups to use, we were first met with wild marjoram, from the oregano family of herbs.
This was a peppery spicy leaf which will taste good within a flat bread.
We learnt about property rights. Within the quarry we did have permission to be picking wild food. Usually on common grounds it is legal to pick plants which are above the ground. Occasionally a landowner may refuse as the land is still theirs. However, any uprooting of plants is not allowed. Permission has to sort at all times for uprooting a plant as this is a criminal offence to do so and prosecution could follow.
Moving through the quarry along the waterlogged ground, we came across water mint. Water mint can be crushed and smelt and eaten and has a much fresher and sharper taste than the other mints you could buy in
the shops. These mints have been cultivated to suit people’s palettes and tastes, taking away a lot of the aliveness of wild mint.
Crossing over the steam, we came across a big patch of wild garlic with burdock. Burdock with it’s thick stem and big flowers can be used in salads, adding a crunch as well as a taste like water chestnuts. This plant is best eaten in a few weeks of growth as the bigger and larger it grows the tougher and woody to taste it becomes.
This time of year is when the wild garlic is just on the turn after enjoying infusing the whole forest floor with its pungent smell for most of Spring. Sharp and sometimes an irritant to the nose, if inhaled too much, wild garlic is a free means of adding flavour and nutrients to any soup or salad. Both the fresh green leaves like long tongues, and the seeds can be used. Stay away from the leaves turning yellow as they are losing their freshness and luscious taste.
To be continued … Part 2