Tuesday 27 January 2009

Wild Food Guide 'I'

Wild Foods Guide 'I'

This is the ninth of my series of 26 postings on wild foods. Each post will deal with a separate letter of the alphabet ('I' 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 'I', the ninth letter of the English alphabet, which includes foods such as Irish Moss and Ivy-leaved Toadflax and many others. Today, however I am going to devote this page to hawthorn and hazel.

The Irish Moss (also known Carragheen, Carrageen, Carragheen Moss, Carraigín), Chondrus crispus, is a red alga and a member of the Gigartinaceae family. It grows abundantly along the rocky parts of the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America. In its fresh condition the plant is soft and cartilaginous, varying in colour from a greenish-yellow to a dark purple or purplish-brown; but when washed and sun-dried for preservation it has a yellowish translucent horn-like aspect and consistency.

The plant inhabits the lower shore, with a fairly cosmopolitan distribution. It can grow up to around 150 mm long, with dichotomous branching of the frond. It is similar and often confused with Mastocarpus stellatus, but is distinguished by the flat frond.

When softened in water it has a sea-like odour, and because of the abundant mucilage it will form a jelly when boiled, containing from 20 to 30 times its weight of water. Irish moss is a major source of carrageenan, which is commonly used as a thickener and stabilizer in processed foods, including ice cream and luncheon meat. As a result carragheen is an important setting agent (it has little flavour of its own) and its use is known from ancient times.

Here I present a classic reconstructed Ancient recipe for a desert made from blackberries and irish moss :

Blackberry Juice and Seaweed Pudding

70g dried carragheen (Irish Moss)
1kg blackberries, picked over and washed
1l water
2 tbsp honey

Combine the fruit, honey and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cover and continue cooking for 1 hour. Strain through a sieve, pulping the fruit with the back of a spoon to extract as much juice as possible, then return the juice to the saucepan and add the seaweed. Return to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes, or until the seaweed has dissolved. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little then pour into a bowl and allow to cool completely.

Place in the refrigerator to chill (it will set) and serve with honey and cream.

This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Blackberry Juice and Seaweed Pudding Recipe from the Ancient Recipes collection of the Celtnet Recipes Collection.

If you are interested in recipes for Irish Moss leaves or berries then you can find a range of Irish Moss recipes.

Ivy-leaved Toadflax Cymbalaria muralis, (also known as: Aaron's beard and Kenilworth Ivy) is a member of the family Scrophulariaceae (figwort). It is a flowering plant native to Mediterranean Europe, though it has been extensively introduced to and naturalized in the remainder of Europe and much of the globe. It is most commonly found growing on walls and bears ivy-like leaves that are somewhat thick in texture, and smooth, are cutup into five prominent, rounded lobes or divisions, and are on long stalks. The backs of the leaves are of a reddish-purple. Typically the plant is in flower from May to September, and the seeds ripen from July to October. The flowers themselves are small and pale lilac in colour.

The leaves are edibla and are typically eaten raw in salads. They are commonly used in the Mediterranean region and are slightly acrid and pungent like cress. In common with many wild greent the leaves become increasingly bitter with age and are best consumed when young.

The recipe presented below is for a classic British recipe for a salad of wild leaves (with ivy-leaved toadflax) and apples.

Spiced Apple and Wild Spring Leaf Salad

Ivy-leaved toadflax leaves
Wild chervil
Hairy Bittercress
Wild Lamb's Lettuce
parsley piert leaves (use sparingly and only pick young leaves)
wild ramson greens
wood sorrel leaves

1 tart eating apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced into rings then quartered
60g raisins
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly-grated ginger
generous grating of fresh nutmeg
100g rocket
50g fresh mint (wild mint if you can find it)
olive oil

You will need to collect about 200g of the wild leaves. Was them well then toss all the leaves together. Meanwhile peel, core and slice the apple place in a bowl with the raisins, dress with the lemon juice and sprinkle the spices over the top. Toss to mix then combine with the greens. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and serve.

This salad has a bit of a zing to it and makes an excellent intermediary betwen a fish and a min course.

This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Spiced Apple and Wild Spring Leaf Salad Recipe from the Celtnet British Recipes Collection.

If you are interested in recipes for ovy-leaved toadflax then you can find a range of ivy-leaved toadflax 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 'I' on the Wild Food Guide for the letter 'I', part of the Celtnet Wild Food Guide.

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