Tuesday 20 January 2009

Wild Food Guide 'D'

Wild Foods Guide 'D'

This is the fourth of my series of 26 postings on wild foods. Each post will deal with a separate letter of the alphabet ('D' today) and will describe a wild food beginning with that letter as well as presenting a classic recipe incorporating that wild food.

Today I'm dealing with the letter 'D', the fourth letter of the English alphabet, which includes foods such as dandelion, deadnettle, dock, dulse, dog rose and dwarf plume and many others. Today, however I am going to devote this page to dulse (one of my favourite seaweeds) and deadnettles.

There are three main kinds of edible deadnettles: the White Deadnettle, Red Deadnettle and Henbit deadnettle which are all members of the Lamium spp and belong to the Lamiaceae (mint) family of flowering herbaceous plants. They are all native throughout Europe and western Asia and north Africa and tend to grow in a variety of habitats from open grassland to woodland, generally on moist, fertile soils.

The leaves of all the Lamium species are superficially similar to those of stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) but do not sting  hence they are described as 'dead'. When not in flower, the deadnettles are all very similar to one another, but the white deadnettle bears white flowers, the red deadnettle bears red to purple flowers and the henbit deadnettle bears pink flowers.

The young shoots and leaves of these plants are edible and, once washed, can be simply cooked by adding to frying pan with a knob of butter some spring onions and plenty of seasoning. When sautéed for ten minutes they are ready to consume. Ideally finish with a twist of fresh nutmeg and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice before serving. The tops of young plants can also be used in salads or can be stir-fried as a spring vegetable.

The recipe blow is for a classic dish of fried deadnettle, incorporating all deadnettle types.

Fried Herbed Deadnettle

350g deadnettle leaves and flowers (any of henbit deadnettle, white deadnettle and red deadnettle [or a mix] will work)
60g butter
small bunch of chives, shredded
2 garlic clives, minced
a few sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
2 sprigs mint, leaves shredded
1 medium onion, finelt chopped
salt and black pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a frying pan then add the onion and garlic and fry until the onion becomes soft. Add the herbs then shredd the deadnettle leaves and add these. Fry for a few minutes until the leaves have wilted then add the deadnettle flowers. Fry for a minute then season and serve immediately.

This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Fried Herbed Deadnettle Recipe from the Celtnet Recipes Collection.

If you are interested in recipes for bilberries then you can find a range of deadnettle recipes.

Dulse as a wild food Dulse, Palmaria palmata, (also known as Purple Laver, Dillisk, Dilysg or Creathnach) is is a red alga that grows along the northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, where it is a traditional food. It grows attached attached to rocks by a holdfast and is commonly used in Ireland and Atlantic Canada both as food and medicinally.

Dulse grows from the mid-tide portion of the intertidal zone (the area between the high tide and low tide) and into deep water. Fronds may vary from rose to reddish-purple, and range from about 20 to 40 cm. From June through September, it is picked by hand at low water, brought to drying fields (or spreading grounds) and put through a shaker to remove snails, shell pieces, etc. The fronds are spread thinly on netting and left to dry, turned once and rolled into large bales to be packaged or ground later. Sun-dried dulse is eaten as is or is ground to flakes or a powder. It can also be pan fried quickly into chips, baked in the oven covered with cheese with salsa, or simply microwaved briefly. It can also be used in soups, chowders, sandwiches and salads, or added to bread/pizza dough. Fresh dulse can be eaten directly off the rocks before sun-drying.

Dulse (known in Welsh as dilysg) occurs in the Mabinogi of Math mab Mathnowy as one of the things that the enchater, Math uses to construct a boat.

The recipe presented below is for a classic version of Welsh Rarebit that incorporates Dulse as a main ingredient.

Dulse Welsh Rarebit

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcesterchire sauce
½ tsp black pepper
60ml porter beer
200g Cheddar cheese
25g dulse, finely chopped
sliced bread

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Cook this mixture for about two minutes, ensuring that the flour doesn't burn. Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce the dulse and the beer. Cook for about four minutes then begin adding the grated cheese little by little, ensuring that it does not burn on the bottom of the pan. Whilst the cheese is melting slice your bread and toast on one side under the grill. When the cheese has all melted turn the part-toasted bread over and add the cheese mixture on top of the uncooked side of the bread. Place back under the grill until the cheese has coloured a golden brown (personally I like to add a little paprika at this time).

This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Dulse Welsh Rarebit from the Celtnet Welsh Recipes Collection.

If you are interested in recipes for dulse then you can find a range of dulse recipes.

This guide is brought to you in conjunction with the Celtnet Wild Food Recipes collection.

You can find more wild foods beginning with the letter 'D' on the Wild Food Guide for the letter 'D', part of the Celtnet Wild Food Guide.

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