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. A 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.