About this blog

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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.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Foraged Food Friday: Pignuts

I've slipped even further behind with this week's post, which is particularly annoying as the actual foraging took place almost a week early. I was all ready to write it on Friday, but was busy with the Wild West Wales website (still not finished, and some of what I did is now unnecessary as one of the musicians had to cancel due to health problems), then ran out of time. The gig on Friday night was fantastic, though, in spite of the power cut. Then work and gardening took up the rest of the weekend, and...

Enough rambling - on to pignuts. These are a tricky subject for a foraging post. They've been on my to try (via learn how to identify) list for some time, but if they're growing wild it's actually illegal (in the UK) to harvest them. This isn't specific to pignuts; whereas picking leaves and fruit is permitted, destroying plants is not allowed. This means that any root crop is technically illegal to harvest unless it's growing on your own land (or you have the landowner's permission). Things like dandelions are so abundant that I can't see anyone seriously objecting if you dig a few of them up, but pignuts aren't quite in that invasive category.

Illegal or not, I still wanted to learn to identify pignuts, and was very pleased when Jade pointed them out to me (with cautions about digging up) when I was on the foraging course. Then last weekend we visited our friends Adrian and Ellie in their new home. While the boys went off to an airshow, Ellie and I spent a lovely day exploring the nearby countryside and peering at wildflowers. I spotted some pignuts. Then I spotted some more, and then they were everywhere! With such an abundance, I decided that it would be OK to dig up just one, to try.

I didn't have my camera with me, but Ellie did and kindly lent me hers, so here are a couple of pictures. From the flowers you'll see it's an umbellifer, meaning, Take care not to confuse this with poisonous relatives.

Pignut (Conopodium majus) flowers, bearing some similarity to hemlock flowers

Close-up of the leaves, almost needle-fine and very forked

I carefully dug around the base of the plant and found the small, nut-like tuber, not buried as deeply as it might have been (they can be several inches down). I didn't get a photo, but it looked very much like a hazlenut (the bit you eat, not the shell) and once I'd scraped the skin off and tried a nibble, tasted somewhat like a fresh hazlenut, too. Ellie tried it and commented on a hint of radish flavour as well. I'd certainly like to eat more of these, so what I need to do now is find some locally, keep an eye on them for the ripening seeds, then collect some and plant them in my garden, so I can dig them up without worrying about disturbing their natural distribution or, indeed, breaking the law.

Also harvesting this week
Pak Choi flower buds (they're all bolting)
Dulse (to dry and in soup)
Kelp (to dry)

Also drinking
Heather ale
Dandelion wine

Also eating
Crab apple and rowan jelly
Blackcurrant jam
Knotweed chutney
Blackberry and bilberry jam

Foraged food challenge summary page here.


  1. Oh I've got to try these - keep meaning to! Shame you are not near here because I have loads of them growing through my little woodland area! You eat bracken tips too? Should I ask now or will this be another Friday post, lol!

    1. Ooh, lucky you! They're a fiddle to dig up, but they are nice.

      As for the bracken, I've been eating it for a while...
      Foraged Food Friday: Bracken
      ... though I recently discovered that I've also been eating some other kind of fern. Oops! I've edited the post accordingly.

  2. I've wanted to try these for an age! Did you know that they're the 'nuts' referred to in the rhyme 'here we go gathering nuts in May'. As May is definitely not the right time for regular nuts!

    1. No I didn't know that, thank you! I had heard that it's "and May" not "in May", referring to hawthorn flowers, not the month, but that didn't help with the season as it's much the same time of year.


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