I went out in search of marsh samphire* on Tuesday and on the way, I spotted wild carrots. Jade of Wild Pickings alerted me to these (and also samphire) on her facebook page, and explained the alternative name, Queen Anne's Lace:
The queen, an expert lace maker, is said to have pricked her finger and a drop of blood stained the centre of her lace, symbolised by the single red floret in the middle of the lacey flower. I didn't see the single red floret straight away; what I first noticed was a white, lacy flower with pink bobbles on it.
Investigating further, the leaves certainly looked like carrot leaves:
I then looked around and found more plants growing nearby that had the defining red floret in the centre.
After some effort, and with a bit of help from a friend, one plant was excavated from the very stony ground. Bearing in mind that these plants are biennials, I chose one that wasn't flowering, as the second year (i.e. flowering) plants would have much tougher, woody roots. By the standards of cultivated carrots, the root looks tiny, but compared with other wild plants, it looks pretty substantial to me. I guess it would be bigger later in the year, too. I can see why people thought they were worth cultivating.
It smelled distinctly carroty and tasted just like cultivated carrots, too, perhaps with a little more flavour. However, it was so chewy (I ate it raw) that I wondered whether I'd accidentally picked a second-year plant, in spite of its lack of flowers. Then I read the following description on Eat the Weeds:
Roots cooked or if you have good teeth, raw. Thin and stringy. Ah yes, that would be the plant I tried.
Because of the difficulty and illegality of digging these up, I don't think I'll be harvesting them in any great quantity (unless I try growing some in the garden - they might do better than the cultivated variety), but it was exciting to be able to identify them.
Garlic mustard seeds
Courgettes (not mine - a neighbour called round and rather apologetically presented me with a carrier bag full of large courgettes/small marrows, and an invitation to pick as many more as I like. I have eaten courgettes in pasta sauce, with goats' cheese, in soup (all excellent), and have a large quantity of courgette puree in the freezer. And there are more.)
Crab apple and sage jelly
Foraged food challenge summary page here.
* and I found it! I pickled most of it - it's the first time I've tried pickling anything, so I hope it works. If it doesn't spoil, I'll tell you about it in a few months. In the meantime, the young shoots are delicious raw.