I decided to give this plant one more chance and today, whilst out for a walk (I was looking for mushrooms, but didn't find any) I spotted some nice fat willow herb.
Like asparagus, fat stems grow on older plants; the thin stems do not fatten up. I'd have to leave them alone for another year or two to get this kind of plant in my garden, and I'm not going to do that! I tried the stem, peeling it as my friend advised, and avoiding the tough lower portion (almost half the stem) and the much smaller bitter part at the top. Actually, I'm not sure
bitteris quite the right description;
astringentseems more accurate, like sloes or unsweetened cranberries. I munched too near the top of one stem so I had plenty of opportunity to reflect on this, as the taste stayed with me for some time.
Eating the part I'd found
palatablelast time I tried it, I have to admit, it was really quite nice. I'm not sure I'd go quite as far as
delicious, but not far off. My friend was right about eating it raw, too. Cooking would achieve nothing apart from making it harder to peel or, if already peeled, probably spoiling the texture.
I'm still not sure I'd make a point of gathering this plant for food, but if I find myself out for a walk and feeling hungry, as I was earlier today, I might well eat a few of these stems again, now I know how to get the best out of them.