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2011-05-12

Up on Mill Hill on the Downs North of Shoreham you can find some fantastic chalk grassland, with its notorious high biodiversity and amazing views over the Adur Valley Mark Lloyd and I headed out at 6am for a pre work forage.We covered all of the above within about 100 yards of the car park and an hour and a half (a slow walk!). Wash anything you find up here - we steered off the main paths, but there was dogs all over despite the early hour.

  • We found plenty of Alexanders slowly going to seed, so having experienced this umbelifer through the spring we decided to pick some seeds, which have been used as an alternative to pepper. They are really strong! If you are trying other delicate flavours it would be worth leaving these til last! That distinctive Alexanders flavour is still there.
  • Mark Lloyd spotted a few Salad Burnet hiding under the edge of a bush - a really lovely flavour fresh and steamed and well worth tracking down. A definite wild winner.
  • A few Plantain seed heads gave a nice nutty flavour, but not at all strong. I am a big fan of the plantains, a plant that grows all over the place and is really nutritious.
  • We tried some more Hogweed leaf (see last trip for more details). Hog weed wins over Alexanders for me, but be careful, there is a photo-sensitive reaction that hog weed can cause - if you get the sap on your skin and expose it to sunlight it can get quite sore.
  • More Clematis tips went down well - not hugely flavoured, but with many things a lack of flavour can be a blessing!
  • English Thistles are all edible, though you should beware of the spikes (choking hazard). Because of this we went no further with identification of a very sharp suspect, and dragged it off to be sampled. I've tried thistle before, the stems are quite nice, and found the leaves to be unpalatable, but steamed even the leaves taste ok. Good stuff.
  • After a lengthy ID discussion which Mark Lloyd won (as usual) we tried some Bladder Campion leaves. These were good, and I was glad I let Mark win....
  • The downs are awash with Clovers and you can eat Red Clover, which we found here. The flowers are delicious and packed with "isoflavones", which are meant to reduce the risk of various cancers. The leaves are also packed with goodness and highly recommended for health reasons. I found them tough and unpalatable, very very chewy. However mixed with other salad leaves I am sure they would be fine.
  • As in so many spots in this area we found Wild Marjoram and took it home to dry it for cookery. It's just like any other marjoram, but free. Nice one. Keep and eye out for Wild Basil in this area too.
  • We also picked up a Sow Thistle, which had somehow developed a legendary status in my mind, but proved to be awful. The inner stem was ok (like celery) but the leaves her extremely bitter.
  • And finally we found a Yarrow and steamed its leaves, another non-descript flavour that would do fine in a mixed wild salad / stir fry.
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