Being a country girl at heart, I love the satisfaction of foraging, and then making delicious FREE FOOD! Here are some great ways I use to pick up free, delicious food day-to-day
If you, or your neighbours have an apple tree (or cherry or any other fruit), you can offer to pick up the windfalls and then pay them back with an apple pie/jar of apple sauce/whatever you make. I’ve done it, and it’s a great way to get to know your neighbours – they can only say no. I’ve also made chestnut stuffing for the Christmas turkey out of chestnuts harvested in autumn (freeze it till Xmas) and my Dad made chicory coffee out of chicory root (I think) which he dried and powdered (mind you, everyone refused to drink it, so I’m not making any promises!) The point is, dig out some recipes and have a go. Just don’t mess with mushrooms/toadstools if you don’t know what they are.
Grow your own herbs: You don’t have to be green fingered – some are idiot-proof, as even I can grow them (mint). And you can do it in a flat. Don’t try to cultivate supermarket growing herbs though – I’ve never had any luck. Instead, when you’re passing a garden centre, get the smallest size of, tyme, parsley, mint, sage, rosemary, basil, salad herb (there is a herb called “salad herb” – it tastes like cucumber) and grow them in pots on a windowsill or patio. Just don’t harvest them too much before they’re established, otherwise you’ll have pots of stalks!
Blackberries/chestnuts/apples: No, not all on the same plate or in the same dish! But they’re free and available, even in cities. Make sure you’re allowed to pick them though, and they’re not too smothered in pollution (ie next to a main road).
Nettles. My mother used to send us out to gather nettles from the woods when we were kids, to make nettle soup. Remember to pick only the young tops, not the gnarled old stems or the older stringy plants. Wear gloves! It’s actually quite a spinachy soup, full of iron, and a great delicacy in Sweden with a boiled egg in.
Once you have picked your free food, the next thing is to cook it.
Here are a couple of recipes I love that will use up some of your foraged food.
free food Nettle Soup
1 small onion, chopped
½ potato, peeled and diced
500ml chicken stock
1 bunch nettles, thick stalks removed
3 large handfuls flatleaf parsley
2 tbsp chives, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
Fry the onion gently in the butter, then add the potato and nettles. Stir for a few minutes.
Add the stock and simmer 5 minutes.
Add the herbs.
Blitz until smooth in a blender.
Return to the pan, heat through and season to taste.
Serve with a spoonful of yoghurt.
fREE FOOD Blackberry and Apple Crumble
900g Bramley apples
175g sugar + 55g for topping
225g plain flour
125g muesli or a mixture of oats, seeds and chopped nuts
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
2. Peel, core and chop the apples. Squeeze lemon juice over and mix well.
3. Put the apples, blackberries, and sugar in a large pie dish.
4. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the muesli or oat/seed/nut mixture and sugar.
5. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the fruit. Bake 45 minutes or until the fruit is cooked. Serve with cream/yoghurt, or just cold milk – mmm.
Note: You can use all blackberries but it might take you a while to gather 1.3kg! The tart apple works well with the sweeter blackberry taste. I’d use soft brown sugar for preference.