On the Itchen in Hampshire

Great family lunch in a pub at Shawford in Hampshire followed by a walk along the river between Shawford and Hampshire

Foraging in (Old) Hampshire

It’s difficult to believe that the spring foraging season has come so far here in Hampshire, UK whilst on the other side of the North Sea there are meter high banks of snow in the south!

Hampshire and the Hungry Gap talk!

A few pictures from my Mum and Dad’s garden in Chandlers Ford, a walk around Old Town, Southampton, my talk on Hungry Gap veg at the Art Centre last night (there is no hungry gap in Southern England) and finally pictures of currently foragable plants!

RIP The King of the Dandelions, Dandelion Dude Peter Gail

Even though I never met him, I was saddened to learn this morning that one on North Americas leading foragers Peter Gail has died. I first came across him on the old foraging email groups, first Edible Wild in 1999 and later Wild Forager and Forage Ahead…which inspired me to buy his book Dandelion Celebration (1994).  He was the first person I had come across that had actually planted a dandelion bed in his garden and he also organised the National Dandelion Cookoff in Dover, Ohio for many years! You can find the excerpt about Gail from my book Around the World in 80 plants below!
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Excerpt from Around the World in 80 plants:

“I eventually saw the light (about eating dandelions”when I followed a discussion on the ForageAhead email group between two of North
America’s leading foragers ‘Dandelion Dude’ Peter Gail and John Kallas. Gail has written several essays and books about dandelions including his Dandelion Celebration (1994). He also founded the group ‘Defenders of Dandelions’ to provide information to those who want to make their neighbours aware just how good dandelions are and stop the chemical warfare. He has also organised the National Dandelion Cookoff in Dover, Ohio, still going strong since 1993. Gail says he ate dandelions every day, fresh in the summer and in dehydrated form in winter, growing his own from transplanted wild roots on raised beds in his garden for ease of access. Gail has been rightly coined the King of the Dandelions! However, it was John Kallas’ web essay Making Dandelions Palatable that explains how such a bitter weed could be so popular around the world. To start with, Gail admits to thinking he was being poisoned the first time he ate dandelion and Kallas also found them very bitter, but was determined to solve the riddle. He first points out that foraging books downplay the bitterness and thinks that the oft-quoted difference between the first mild leaves in spring and bitter at flowering time is also exaggerated. As a result many people are
disappointed and permanently put off when they sample their first dandelion. I was with him here … He says that as part of his PhD he interviewed old timers in rural Michigan. Dandelions were the most common wild collected food in this group and, no, they weren’t bitter, they said. Upon asking how they prepared the dandelions they explained that the fresh leaves were mixed with bacon grease, bacon, eggs, salt and sometimes vinegar. Incidentally, salade de pissenlit et lardons (salad of dandelion and bacon) is still prepared in France today. In most cultures as you can see in the around-the-world review above, dandelions are almost never eaten fresh alone.”

Birds in the garden 13th February 2018

1. Nuthatch and Great spotted woodpecker atop a spruce tree

2. My handsome grey red squirrel disappears up the tree with a grunt

3. I had a  rodent visitor in the night on the balcony on the second floor outside my bedroom…it had climbed up through the Clematis

4. Redpolls with several others

5. Long-tailed tits

6. Bully Robin!

 

Mating long-tailed tits?

Another first for the garden today, long-tailed tits (stjertmeis) displaying and perhtaps also mating? What do you think? Isn’t it a bit early?
Another first for the garden today, long-tailed tits (stjertmeis) displaying and perhaps also mating? What do you think? Isn’t it a bit early? I may also have seen the hovering courtship display, thinking first the bird was fly catching….