These are things that haven’t been deliberately planted by another person, they just happen to live there. That means, Mother Nature has her own grocery store where there are no lineups. Once you’re able to identify a few edible plant species, all you need to do is be willing to give up a some of your time, to be rewarded in all kinds of epic and delicious ways.
Spring is an exciting time in the plant world. Whilst we patiently wait for salad greens to be ready in the greenhouses of our local farmers or our home gardens, wild plants tend to pop up way before any of that.
All of my adventures tend to be of the edible kind; there’s something about working for your lunch that gets me every time. So here’s an easy-to-navigate Indian-inspired recipe for your upcoming adventures in the field: Ingredients:
2 tbsp. vegetable oil (any oil or animal fat really)
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 medium-sized yellow onion (finely diced or sliced – you do you)
2 tsp. garlic (finely chopped)
2 tsp. ginger (finely chopped)
½ tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. Kashmiri chilli powder (Indian-style paprika) or ½ tsp. red chilli powder (add half first, depending on how spicy you like things – remember, it’s easier to add than take away)
2 tsp. The Paisley Notebook’s Garam Masala
Salt (to taste)
2 medium-sized local tomatoes (diced)
This top bit can be made ahead of time to make your camp or field cooking session really quick. This recipe makes more than the greens you’d find when foraging, so you can leave some in your fridge or freeze it, too.
Foraged wild ingredients – whatever you find. In spring, there’s usually wild asparagus, lamb’s quarter, mustard greens (be careful, these will get super bitter when you cook them), watercress (when cooked it mellows out it’s spicy peppery notes), to name a few in the grocery store of the forest.
Garnish with mustard flowers or whatever you find.
Start by prepping your other ingredients non-foraged ingredients.
In a frying pan or pot (it needs to be big enough to fit the onions and tomatoes), heat oil over a medium flame.
Once heated, add the cumin seeds, let sizzle for 10-20 seconds (you don’t want to burn these because everything will turn bitter – if you do, start again (trust me)).
Now stir in the garlic and ginger, cook until slightly golden brown.
Add the diced onion and sauté with 1 tsp. salt until soft and translucent (like a ghost but less scary).
Now reduce the heat and add in the chilli powder, turmeric and Garam Masala. The spices will stick together, but that’s normal. After you mix this, add in the diced tomatoes and stir. The acidity will deglaze the pan. Random fact: the French would use wine to deglaze the pan, but Indians use tomatoes – everything will stop clumping together (kind of like magic).
Cook this mixture for 8-10 minutes until the tomatoes are mushy and it becomes a bit paste-like. This is the flavour stage and flavour is important.
This onion/tomato mix can be made ahead of time to speed up field cooking and concentrate on maybe having a drink. The recipe above gives you more than you’d need for 2 to 4 people, so save some for later.
Remove whatever you don’t need from the pan and leave to the side.
Now add whatever foraged things you found. For me, it was wild asparagus (wooden stalk removed and cut into 2-3” pieces), sauté for a minute or two depending on the thickness of the spears. Throw in the lamb’s quarter and cook until just wilted.
Now this is the most important part – taste, tweak and then taste again until it’s delicious.
What’s missing? Salt? Chilli? Spices need just the right amount of salt for their powers to kick in.
Once you’re happy, serve it up with some toasted sourdough and garnish with wild mustard flowers (if you find some).
If you want to save on washing up, a rock works well as a plate.
For me, this is how I complete the adventure by eating seasonally with a real taste of place. Camp food with a little elevated Indian ‘something-something’, done!
Photo credit: The Paisley Notebook.