Feb 25th-27th

Lent begins. On Shrove Tuesday, there was a pre-Lent good life banquet at the church, with everything donated and home grown, or wild. The main course was a wild deer – very fat he was too, and I brought back the fat for rendering, as well as the bones for stock. The fat was easily processed; it is very hard and white, and gives a good flavour in cooking. It solves, at least for now, the issue of whether I am allowed cooking oil during my Lent challenge. As for the bones, after boiling for stock I got four portions of meat from them.

Ash Wednesday, the hens having begun an untimely strike, I breakfasted on a fruit compote consisting of home grown raspberries, blackcurrants, strawberries, with brambles and elderberries from the freezer. I didn’t eat again till about four, then used a portion of the venison and some stock to make a sort of stew with a Jerusalem artichoke, a carrot and an onion from the garden, and some spinach. It did me for lunch on Thursday too. Later, I sorely missed my evening snack, but could only find a few hazelnuts I couldn’t really spare to scoff.

I am finding having to go in the garden to find an edible herb every time I want a hot drink a bit of a pain – especially as hardly anything is really growing yet – and also boring! Tried gorse flower tea on Thursday – tastes like hot water. Cleavers (known here delightfully as Sticky Willy) is about the best; sage is OK but not very flavoursome at this time of year. Passed a garden with a healthy clump of Sticky Willy growing in it. When the householder came out of his door, I only just avoided saying, “Scuse me mate, can I have a bit of your sticky willy?” This kind of thing can get you into trouble. As an alternative, I’ve spun the fruit compote into smoothies – astonishing number of pips! I am allowing myself home-made wine, but have been too wobbly so far to dare drink any.

By today, Friday, I need a rest from venison, good though it is. Hens deigned to lay some eggs, so omelette for breakfast (with half a leek) and a sort of Spanish omelette (the other half of the leek, carrot and defrosted runner beans) for dinner. With which I had roasted beetroot and artichoke with mixed herbs from the garden. Not too much wild stuff yet, but I did have a brilliant salad for lunch – miners lettuce, sorrel, garlic mustard, rocket, spinach leaves and the first ground elder, chopped finely with half a cooked beetroot and a chopped apple. Made a sort of dressing with Rose next door’s accidental cider vinegar that was meant to be apple wine and my redcurrant sauce. It offset the bitterness of the leaves and I really savoured every mouthful – something I’ve noticed that’s different in my eating experience!

Also I can feel myself becoming, of necessity, much more resourceful. As I write, the first bucket of sycamore sap is reducing gently on top of the stove. Collecting Sycamore Sap for SyrupA gallon of raw milk donated to the banquet that didn’t get used is curdling in the kitchen, hopefully to become curd cheese. Ian at the church gave me a bag of apples from storage from his orchard – as I am badly missing snacks, I intend to dry some as rings to carry to work with me. Traded one of Rose’s spare cockerels for some venison, and it’s stashed in the freezer. And I am noticing the emergence of every weed – today I saw the first shoots of Ramsons or wild garlic – and remembered I have some rather rubbishy cultivated garlic in the veg plot – suddenly reject vegetables and the tops of leeks become highly desirable!

As the warm weather continues, I hope to see an acceleration in the wild food options in my diet. I am hungry, and craving bread, oatcakes and biscuits especially. But so far, so good – even when I had to go to the pub quiz on Wednesday and drink a pint of water –  on the rocks.

2 thoughts on “Feb 25th-27th

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