On a sunny May day the Group met near Woodlands Way, West Wickham for a short walk to find edible plants under the direction of Theresa Webb, qualified Nutritional Therapist and founder of Kitchen Buddy.
Within a few steps of starting we found Wild Garlic growing in the roadside, together with Herb Robert, Dock, Narrow leaved Plantain, Dandelion, Hedge Garlic and Sanicle. A few feet further and there was Cow Parsley.
We were warned that it is important to identify carefully the ribbed stems and green colour and not confuse it with poisonous Hemlock, smooth round purple blotched stems but slightly more feathery leaves and foul smell. This really means you should not touch or eat plants you can not identify as safe. Also it is wise not to take any thing you will eat from below waist height in places where dogs walk. Remember that other animals depend on plants and never take more than two thirds of a plant and do not uproot it if not needing the root.
Roots, stem, leaves, flowers and seeds can all act differently on the body and strengths depend on time of year and day and even weather conditions.
The question came, where is it permissible to pick plants? Strictly, only where you have the landowner’s permission.
Crossing the road we found Broad leaved Plantain, Blackberry brambles , Sweet Chestnut, Oak, Stinging Nettle ( three leaves in a cup of hot water make nice tea), Bracken (ferns), Cleavers (Goosegrass), Honeysuckle, Hawthorn (Mayflower), Deadnettle – all these can be used in various ways.
In the woods we found Raspberry, Silver Birch- sap can make a drink, Yew is poisonous but the red part of the fruit is OK IF YOU DO NOT EAT THE PIP!
Wood Avens, Pendulous Sedge ( sedges have triangular stems, so does Allium triquetum which is the Three Cornered Leek; we did not find this.)
Another two plants to watch out for are Hogweed and Giant Hogweed. Both have sap that causes blisters in sunlight and although edible and sustaining the Giant is best avoided.
Rowan/Mountain Ash had green berries now but orange when ripe and make good jelly. Enchanter’s Nightshade brought some extra interest from the group who wondered how they might use it!
Wood Anemone indicated that this was very old woodland.
Small- leaved Lime was seen and we were to have this as salad at lunch.
Near the end we found Gooseberry and Currant; these may have been dumped here but both are native species. Last was Meadow Sweet, remember the scent of old fashioned pharmacies? This contains aspirin, good for headaches.
Back to Sandy’s house for a delicious light lunch made from some of the species seen, together with herb mixture condiments and pesto made by Theresa. Thank you Theresa and Sandy.
In conclusion, I must emphasize that this article should not be taken as recipes or instruction on eating or using any wild plant as it takes very much more learning to know how to get the benefit of the natural foods and medicines.
Remember that a little learning is a dangerous thing and for that reason I have excluded the many uses we were told of during the walk.
Thanks again to Theresa and Sandy.