I went for a walk with a friend today, not far, but it was nice to get out and see what species are blooming. The sap has started to rise in the trees, especially the birch which is now ready for tapping, a process of catching the sap which can then be used as a fresh drink, or taken one step further and made into wine.
The main species of spring are now in flower such as the lesser celandine. With its bright yellow petals it often reminds people of buttercups, not surprising as it belongs to the same family. But Lesser Celandine has a few uses, which I will be covering shortly.
The young hogweed shoots are also breaking free from the earth. These make for a nice springtime snack, but must not be confused with the Giant hogweed, which has been responsible for numerous injuries, as it has photosensitive juices which run through it. If these juices get on the skin and are exposed to sunlight it will cause blistering. It's always worth pointing out that some people find they have a similar, but much milder effect from Hogweed of the non-giant variety, but most will encounter no problems at all.
Butterflies such as the Brimstone, peacock, red admiral and comma were all seen flying about in the warm sun. I have to say it was as warm as a summer's day, a little too hot for my liking.
The goat willows have burst into life, and were attracting a whole range of buzzing insects, from bees, to bee-fly.
Even the early stages of one of my favourite wild foods could be found among the grass. The pignut is a strange little plant which boasts a flavoursome tuber (root) which tastes somewhat like a carrot with a peppery kick. These small plants, especially in their early stages of growth are quite similar to some VERY poisonous members of the umbellifer family, so always take extra care when searching for these.
Lords and ladies, often referred to as Cuckoo Pint seems to be in great abundance this year. It's a plant which has several uses to man, but in its raw and natural state it can inflict some quite nasty damage to the skin, and certainly the mouth, so avoid touching!
Hawthorn has long been a favourite sign of springtime in Great Britain. It's pretty white flowers follow a flush of green leaves, these leaves are edible, with a nice nutty taste which lead to a traditional country name of 'bread & cheese'. Hawthorn is often named 'May' as it is traditionally May when it's at its best.
Also and probably regarded as the favourite springtime flower by most, the Primrose (first rose). There were lots of these little yellow plants were I visited today. I will keep the location secret as these are quite rare now, especially those that occur naturally. Primroses have long been used as a springtime snack, and the main ingredient in Primrose wine! Of course as with any plant, rare or common, you should treat them all with respect and only ever take what you need, but when something is this rare, you should leave them for nature to utilise, and enjoy with your eyes only.
I will be adding each plant and tree I mentioned in this little article to the wild food section of the site in the coming days, where I will include some of their traditional uses which I hope you will enjoy reading.
I have several courses about to start, well in early April, so I will keep you all updated on how those go, and I may even try to add some pictures of them this year, providing the students don't mind that is.
Thanks for reading, and thank you for all the positive feedback I have received from the readers. It's quite surprising how many of you actually come here and use the site as a resource.
Catch you on the trail