Eating your way across North Cornwall’s landscape

Spring is what people used to call the hungry gap–the time of year when the food they’d by for the winter was running low and the crops were nowhere near ready to pick. So–I’ve been told–people around here turned to the hedgerows and picked what they could.

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These are nettles–horrible itchy things but they loose their itchiness and are edible as soon as you steam or boil them. You can use them pretty much like spinach, but you have to be careful how you pick them.

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The grassy-looking things are three-cornered leeks. They smell more oniony than garlicky, but all the same I can’t walk past them without wanting a pizza. Good in a salad, or tossed into a pasta sauce at the last minute.

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G. tells me this is the ancestor of celery–alexanders. They were brought over by the Romans (or so I’m told; I haven’t been able to confirm that). I’ve never cooked with them but G. has, and he lived to say they’re good. The seed, root, and flower are all edible.

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And finally, one not to eat. This is dog’s mercury. M.’s dog eats it, if she can, every spring. She eats it, then she throws up. That’s a dog’s idea of a fun day out. It’s toxic in large doses. The “dog” in the name means the plant isn’t useful. Except to M.’s dog.