Like a lettuce of the sea - this is a great one to have one your foraging list whether you are a beginner or an experienced salty sea dog.
We are going to start off this blog with a note about the nutritous, inconspicuous, and ubiquitous hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta.
Head of Laddie communications Carl Reavey loves this over-looked winter green with an oatcake when he's been out for a typically galeforce lunchtime walk with his wife Jan, another member of the team.
A super-abundant brassica that grows in rosettes and quickly colonises newly broken ground, hairy bittercress makes a tasty addition to any salad, and is good with potatoes. Here's an iPhone video to help with recognition.
It looks like there is nothing going on here, the branches / cupboards are bare, but actually the tree is in rude health and there is a lot of energy being concentrated into the new buds. This energy translates as flavour, which can be extracted by chewing over a few velvety tips or by infusing it in alcohol (see advice on tinctures here >>): we get a tannic marzipan, strawberry, tobacco.
Scarlet Elf Cups
Described by our foraging friend Mark Williams as having a "subtle, earthy flavour with perhaps a hint of beetroot", it's the visual thrill that these small edible mushrooms represent that is so lovely in the midst of a dripping winter wood. Sarcoscypha coccinea or Sarcoscypha austriaca, closely related variants, float on top of a broth beautifully (miso / dashi / chicken / porcini as you please), or with a little garlic salt add something elfish to scrambled eggs.
Mint Coming Through
The applemint's coming up in Islay! You can see from its furry leaves and stem why it is also commonly called "woolly mint". The texture at this stage is very oily, the flavour sweet and subtle, having not yet developed the pungent mintyness of the established summer plants. The young leaves give a simple yet tasty twist to a late winter Botanist and tonic.
Bloom coverage is at, what, 15%, and the early blossoms of this member of the pea family have a flavour from the leguminous end of the spectrum, rather than the tropical swoons they will reach in full Spring. With some blue-sky days, some rainbow days, and some absolute wild-wash-out days, it definitely feels like we're on the threshold of a change in the seasons now.
There are signs of the nascent season amoung the grassy humps on the shore. These waxy succulent leaves of the natural flavour-bomb "scurvy grass" (Cochlearia), a brassica related to horseradish and wasabi, will eventually be three or four times the size with a powerful taste to match. Stick that in your red snapper and rage against the rain...