Friday, 22 July 2011

Food for Free

Just re-reading Richard Mabey's well known Food For Free book, of which I have got the Collins gem pocket edition - just handy for putting in your pocket or rucksack when out in the countryside.

The book itself, after a little bit of blurb about the author and his reasons for writing (and updating in 2003) this book, gets on with descriptions and pictures of easily recognisable plants, mushrooms and seashore life that are edible either raw or cooked. Quite a few cooking tips and recipes as well, along with a bit of history of how these foods were used in the past.

What have I found and tried? Well...

Beech Nuts - dried, salted and roasted in the oven for 20-30 minutes or so, they taste a little like salted peanuts but are  a bit more crunchy.

Dandelion root Coffee - dry out some really long dandelion roots, clean up and peel. Again roast in oven until crisp and brittle. Then grind up. Can then be used in a cafetiere or in a small tea bag as an infusion. Tastes ok, though don't expect it to taste of coffee or tea!

Acorn Coffee - collect ripe acorns and dry out. Peel and then leach in water for 24 hours, and then again. This has the effect of removing quite a bit of the tannin which is not good for you in large doses. Then dry and roast and grind etc as per dandelion coffee.
This is "ersatz coffee" used in the Second World War - tastes better than dandelion but I am told it's not a good idea to consume large doses of it as there is a very small trace of cyanide in acorns!
However I am still here!!!!
Tastes better than dandelion. more mellow flavour not unlike the "Camp" coffee you got once upon a time...

Goose Grass seed coffee - dry and roast and grind as per dandelion. Need a lot of goose grass pods to make a decent amount. Worth a try to see if you like it....

Sweet Chestnuts - most people I am sure will have had roasted sweet chestnuts from a city street vendor at some point. Now, two things which we have found out the hard way....
1. Make sure you slit or prick your chestnuts before putting them in the oven!!!! A long time ago, long before we had this book, we tried some. Shoved them straight in the oven. After the appropriate amount of time, we opened the oven door, and had small hard missiles firing out all over the kitchen!
2. Don't rely on the one unslit chestnut you put in as a guide to see if the rest are done. If it doesn't pop you don't realise they are ready!

Fat Hen - doesn't taste very nice raw but apparantly tastes like cooked spinach when boiled.


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