Pick your own wild spring green salad

Pick your own wild spring green salad


Posted 20th Apr 2016


We speak to Nick Weston, expert forager for Forest Holidays, who gives you all you need to know about picking your own

Most prepared salads in a bag cost around £2 a pop in the local supermarket aisle and often the most exotic offering is a smattering of watercress. Many of the herbs and leaves we buy in shops are cultivars of the hedgerow greens that we still see today, except they have been cultivated to the point that their flavour has all but vanished.

Actually the majority of greens that grow in the wild during spring and summer are great in salad and can add some really interesting flavour combinations to your meal, taking the humble salad to a whole new level. Now is the perfect time to get out foraging for your salad; urban environments are just as productive as rural ones so there’s no excuse!

So how do you go about selecting the perfect salad from the wild? Nick Weston, expert forager for Forest Holidays, says you have three criteria to fill:

Flavour

The five points of taste - bitter, salty, sour, sweet and umami - will be found in some of the more charismatic, herby greens as well as your dressing. Look for the following:

- Common Sorrel and wood sorrel (lemon / citrus)
- Wild Garlic / Ramsons (intense garlic)
- Jack-by–the-hedge / Hedge Garlic (soft garlic)
- Dandelion leaves (bitter notes- think chicory)
- Hairy Bittercress (peppery)
- Ladies smock (OTT peppery-intense!)
- Primrose flowers (sweetness)
- Chickweed (sweetness- similar to sweetcorn)
- Ox-eye daisy leaves (aromatic- think fennel / liquorice)
- Ground ivy (herbaceous- slightly aromatic)
- Alexanders (Aromatic)

in article imagery[Images: Yarrow; Ramson leaves - wild garlic] 

Bulk

These greens are generally the plainer hedgerow options, perfect for beefing up and adding volume. Try to go for whatever grows in profusion. Here are just a few of our favourites:

- Lesser Celandine leaves
- Chickweed (not just a flavouring - very common)
- Yarrow
- Goosegrass or cleavers
- Red dead nettle
- Burnt stinging nettle (interesting combo - burn in naked flame to remove stingers- think roast!)
- Navelwort
- Hawthorn leaves (spring)
- Beech Leaves (spring)
- Comfrey
- Ground elder
- Brooklime
- Golden leaved Saxifrage

inarticleimages2[Images: Chickweed; Hairy bittercress] 

Seasoning

Vinaigrette is really what makes a salad a salad in the traditional sense. In most cases a simple vinaigrette is called for to really let the flavour of the leaves shine through. A good guide is to go for a balance of 3:1 on oil: vinegar.

Basic vinaigrette mix:

- 1 tbs cider vinegar
- 3 tbs olive oil
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper

 

Lead image: dandelion leaves

 

Images courtesy of Alamy





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