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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Spring greens

In spite of the mild winter, spring seems to be a little later this year than last. This time last year I was harvesting ground elder and nettles, so I went out to look for some but found hardly anything.

A few tiny leaves of ground elder under the hedge

On the other hand, there is a weed that's popping up all over my garden that I've a feeling might be edible, but I'm not sure what it is. That is, I think I saw a picture of it in a discussion of edible weeds, not just that I had a hunch!

I think these leaves are rather pretty, and they have nice white flowers later in the year, too

Consulting my general purpose book on wild things, I identified this as hairy bittercress, described as, An attractive common weed, which sounds about right. The name is somewhat misleading, as the hairs are so tiny they're almost invisible and it's not really very bitter. It is, however (further research revealed) edible, and tastes similar to watercress. Excellent! I have loads of the stuff.

I harvested some for dinner, together with what ground elder I could find, a few young leaves of rose bay willow herb (said by some to taste like asparagus, but I think they're confusing sparrow-grass with ordinary grass; it tastes of nothing much) and sorrel. I cooked these in milk for a few minutes, then added flour and butter to thicken, and cheese to make sauce.

Spring greens in cheese sauce, being a side vegetable.


  1. The only greens I've seen in any quantity around here so far are Cleavers (goosegrass, sticky weed).
    I found this link when looking for a picture of them and it's from a blog where the writer is looking for some wild food every week of the year. I've only scanned the first couple of weeks, but it looks interesting.
    She starts with navelwort, which I've never seen by me, but I have seen in Wales (near Brecon and on the West Welsh coast), both times growing on stone walls, so you may be in luck!

  2. Rose bay willow herb is edible?! We wade through it down on our dog walk path, very good to know thanks! I guess tasting of nothing much isn't too bad if you put it with other things.

    We also have lots of hairy bittercress around here, we must be near each other!!

  3. Ooh, thanks for the link, Hazel, that's great! I've never heard of navelwort, never mind seen it (or maybe I have seen it - I wouldn't know). I'll have to investigate. I've heard that goosegrass is edible, but didn't fancy trying it. That blog post confirms my suspicions that the texture is nasty. Apparently you can make a tonic from it that will give you beautiful skin if you drink it every day, but that (so I've heard) tastes pretty vile too.

    Sara, that was pretty much my reaction, too! It's only the early shoots that are good to eat, they get tough as they get bigger, so you need to be able to recognise them when they're small, at this time of year. It's not too difficult in my garden - it's the plant that grows in greatest abundance.

    I think you're a bit further south than us, but definitely the same part of the world. Howdy, neighbour! :-)

  4. Re: goosegrass- I've only ever added small amounts to something pureed, say, a nettle soup. I'm not sure I'd fancy a whole plateful of it by itself either!

    I saw the navelwort near Newport (Pembs) on holiday, and I was sure I recognised it, but didn't have my book to double check. When I got home I was right, though I thought it was called nipplewort. Well, part of the body beginning with n...It is edible too, but looks totally different.
    I did eat Alexanders for the first time though. Much to the bewilderment of the farmer who owned the campsite (he thought I was going to lecture him on strimming wild plants, whereas actually I wanted to eat them). They only grow up to about 6 miles from the sea, I think, so no chance in N Oxon! and they were actually rather nice. I took some to the farmhouse for him to try and he agreed, though I think he still thought I was strange...


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