We are just past the summer soltice in Ireland. The days are still long...There is still plenty to find if you're out foraging. However, many plants have grown up, flowered and are in the process of maturing fruit, nuts and seeds. July is an important month for this process to take place. As foragers we can return to these plants in Autumn - now we wait patiently! In the meantime however... :-D
Top five wild plants for foraging in July
This sweet smelling plant has a frothy, cream-coloured blossom and is flowering abundantly in our hedgerows right now.
The blossoms can be used to make a delicious summer cordial. The blossom flavour carries notes of almond, vanilla and something gorgeous and floral I can't describe but is worth tasting! Floral cordials are easy to make. You just need 10-15 flowers, (remember to shake and clean them, bugs LOVE these), a pan, enough water to cover the flowers, add sugar to taste. Bring to the boil, simmer and allow to infuse for a few hours. Strain, chill, add gin/vodka or just sparkling water, fancy cocktail umbrella, straw, sun lounger... Enjoy! I could provide a more specific recipe but that is a general gist!
You've probably passed by these bushes and never realised that these are our native blueberries. The flowers and berries are small and discrete - usually well hidden by the leaves. They are about a third of the size of the blueberries you are used to eating from the supermarket but you will recognise them immediately as they are like a tiny version of a blueberry. The flavour is more intense but generally also much more sour.
Like their blueberry big brother, they love an acidic soil so you will find these in mountainous areas or near boggy ground. Makes great jam, sauce for venison...Throw them on your porridge raw, into your muffin mix or just pop them in your mouth. Loaded with vitamin C, antioxidants, as well as something called anthocyanins that are known to prevent cancer, dementia, improve heart health and stimulate brain function.
Tilia/Linden flower/Lime flower
You will know by the lovely fragrant aroma in the air that you are passing these trees (sorry for the hayfever sufferers). They have just begun to flower. Often known in Ireland as Lime tree, they are known on the European continent as Linden or Tilia. While not a native, the tree is very popular on our streets and in our parks and parklands. If you are ever walking through the Phoenix park they are all over it!
You can pick the blossoms and use for a fragrant tea or drink cold. The blossoms can also be dried and used in the Winter months in a warming cuppa to remind you of summer.
It is recommended to drink the tea for its relaxation benefits, to aid
stomach issues and to support heart function.
Clover - White and Red
While I am lumping these together...It's a bit like putting two siblings from the same family together and calling them the same person. Not cool. However, they are both worth a mention and they are quite similar and often co-habit in the same area so here goes...
Both clovers can be found in grassland - lawns and the like. The flowers can make a nice addition to a salad or as decoration to confectionary. The leaves can be dried and added to cream to give a vanilla like flavour. Similarly, the white clover blossoms have a delicate aroma with vanilla notes.
I have seen the petals of the gorgeous pink flowers used to great effect as a chowder decoration. Similar to the white clover the pink petals of the red clover add a pop of colour to icing on baked goods. Many country or suburban kids will remember this one from casually picking out the petals while sitting on a lawn and licking the bottom for that nice sweet bit of nectar!
Obvious look out here: it tends to show up low to the ground and mixed in lawns. Be wary of passing peeing animals and pick wisely or wash abundantly before eating!
Check out this kerbside warrior! You've probably walked on it, tsked at it's audacity to show up in your driveway. Gawd forbid you may have even hacked it away with a blunt implement or worse!
Despite the indignities suffered, this humble little plant persists. It is a cousin of camomile and smells, tastes and acts just like it when dried and soaked in boiling water. Just look down at your feet, you will see it somewhere soon. Say hello and maybe pick some and try it out as a soothing brew.
3 seeds to watch for foraging in Autumn
So I mentioned the plants you are waiting for Autumn to arrive - if you want to get ahead of the game, these are ones to watch:
Nettles - nettle seeds. They are a concentrated bundle of nutrition, a great energy booster!
Cleavers - seeds. The seeds are those hairy balls (if you'll pardon the expression) that you found stuck to your jumper. Gather them, toast them and grind them for a tasty, caffeine-free alternative to coffee. They also provide the added benefit of cleansing your lymphatic system.
Hogweed seed - these are really worth waiting for! An underrated weed seed with notes of cardamom and orange. Delicious toasted and ground.