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Digging for Gold: adventuring for my forager's salad ingredients

The latest instalment from our resident forager, Gary Goldie, details how to combine what's ready to be foraged in June - pink purslane, ladies smock, pignuts, sea arrow and more - into a forager's salad.

Forager's salad
Forager's salad

"People think I'm cuckoo, if only they knew, I pick cuckoo flowers to the call of the cuckoo, I do..."

That's ladies smock I'm talking about - a very pretty light pink, almost white flower that tastes mustardy.

I have a full bag with lots of smaller bags inside, each filled with lots of wild plants and flowers. I'm on my way back home after a few hours picking herbs, mostly for my forager salad.

Some workmen look on as I pass an over grown meadow: glancing in I see, quite hidden, the light pink cuckoo flowers. I randomly pick some of them for a minute or two - a nice find before I get home.

I choose to walk today around my village, instead of driving to each foraging spot. It paid off: I found lots other good spots.

I started at the dirt track at the end of my street with pink purslane which is in bloom at the moment. I also picked some golden saxifrage that's not golden any more - the flowers have gone, revealing mint-like plushes.

At this point I get attacked by midges, biting my face and neck and I'm not prepared, so I head back home.

I cover myself in repellent and put on a jacket I have with the hood up, which reveals only my eyes and nip out the back to pick ground elder where my neighbour has strimmed. It's growing back nice and tender, and with my hood up and repellent on the combination seems to be doing the trick.

Then I pick a load of broom buds from a bush, these ones have lots of red in the yellow.

I decide to head in the opposite direction through a shortcut, an overgrown meadow where loads of things growing. I pick some pink petals from a Japanese rose bush; trying one, it's a nice flavour but not a great nibble. It'd be good mixed in or infused with something.

The sorrels have great large leaves just now which makes for quite easy picking, and are good for soups or sauces. There's also young leaf coming through, so I fill a bag. Then vetch has lots of purple flowers and I fill a bag with that, and some tender pea leaf shoots.

There's some wild garlic that's now at the flower bud stage over the road - the flowers are almost totally gone, so I grab plenty as I walk through it coming out the other side into some huge ladies smock. This particular batch is good, so I pick the top dark purple flowers and its mustardy leaf.

I go over a hill totally covered in pignuts, stopping to dig up about eight, missing a couple with the stems snapping before heading to Loch Etive about a ten minute walk away.

On the way there's bits and bobs of things I've already picked, so I top up a bit before arriving at the Loch's edge. The sea campion is mainly what I'm after and it's everywhere where the grass meets the sand. I am happy to see the tide right out, which means I can take a massive short cut back.

Through some little dunes I see some yarrow, sheep's sorrel and pick small amounts of them. It's nice now, big clumps of sea plantain on the sand, making it easy to take without grass, same with sea campion but I got enough of that but lots of scurvy grass, it tastes lovely mustardy with a nutty flavour.

This salad varies from season to season, even week to week.

It depends where you are too, it's a nice challenge to go a walk and see what nature gives you.

Tomorrow I'm using it with crab mayonnaise, I'll wash it all nice, spin it out, maybe put a little pickle in the garlic buds, chop the sea arrow grass up like chives, peel and slice the pignuts, mix it all together, nicely picked and put it over a loose crab quenelle with reduced crab stock.

Any leftover will be a superb garnish for any dish, meat, fish, or a sandwich. It just adds excitement to things: colour, class. You can pick out the bits you want or you could even just put a gentle dressing over and serve it as a starter.

Forager salad

Ingredients

Pink purslane

Golden saxifrage

Bittercress

Wild garlic seed pods

Elderflower

Clover

Rose petals

Pig nuts

Sea campion

Scurvy grass

Sea plantain

Sea arrowgrass

Huge ladies smock

Ladies smock flowers

Wood sorrel

Sheep's sorrel

Common sorrel

Yarrow

Vetch

Broom buds

Ground elder

Vinegar and rapeseed oil (optional)

Method

1. Wash and spin all the leafy herbs.

2. Peel, by rubbing with a knife the pignuts and slice very thinly.

3. Chop the sea arrow grass into snippets like chives and blanch the sea plantain in water for 5 seconds.

4. Pick off the elderflower from the branch and the seed pods from the small garlic branch.

5. In a bowl put the garlic pods, add a drizzle of nice vinegar, a pinch of rock salt and a larger drizzle of rapeseed oil. Mix and let sit for 10 minutes.

6. Add all the washed leafy herbs, followed by the sea plantain and sliced pignuts, fold through the dressing gently.

7. Put on the serving dish, meat or fish and finish with the flower blossoms.

You needn't make a dressing at all really, the herbs have juicy lemon and mustard flavours and it works plain too.

 

Caution

Midges are annoying here on the west coast, try not to scratch, as it encourages more to attack.

Tuck your T-shirt into your trousers, as they like the bottom of your back.

Repellant works to an extent for midges, but it's very good to stop ticks.

Tuck your socks into your boots to avoid ticks too and check when you get in the shower you haven't picked one up like in the Sea Sick Steve song Chiggers. These things can be harmful.

Also watch out for clegs - they are slow so you get a second to swipe them away.

And be careful not to bother the busy bees when picking blossoms. They're alright!

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