Eating My Backyard: Can Foraged Foods Make a Delicious Dinner?

Eating My Backyard: Can Foraged Foods Make a Delicious Dinner?

I’ve always liked the idea of growing my own food, but I am a very lazy man. Last week, though, I had a realisation: I’m already growing food. If animals can eat weeds, why can’t I?

I grew up rural, so I had a vague idea of what was out there in terms of edible weeds. I did a brief Google search to make sure I wasn’t going to poison myself, enlisted my brother (Finn) as a taste tester, and got to work on chowing down some weeds.


Fried Dock Leaf

Dock leaves are wide, veiny leaves that grow close to the ground. They are handy because they’re a natural antidote to stinging nettle. If you get stung while out in the wild, you should find one of these bad boys and rub ‘em all over your irritated skin. I figured if I was smearing them all over my arms and legs anyway, why not eat them?

The older leaves taste bitter, while the smaller, younger leaves are more bland, according to my highly scientific taste test. I picked a handful from the back of the old shed, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and tossed them in a pan with some olive oil. According to the internet, these can be eaten raw. I just fried them until they looked tasty.

Upon a hearty sniff, I discovered that fried dock leaf smells like strong kale. Finn described the dish as “depressing to look at”. We agreed that it tasted sad. Overall, it was just a shitty version of spinach.

My brother’s verdict: “This tastes like what I imagine dock leaf would taste like.”


Gorse Flower Tea

Gorse is a trash-tier bush. It’s enveloped in a thick layer of thorns. It’s notoriously invasive. Everybody hates this stupid fucking hellplant. I think consuming gorse is an effective way to take revenge and demonstrate your natural hatred for the plant.

The one good thing about gorse is the gorgeous yellow flowers. Like most flowers, you can steep these in boiling water to make tea. The issue is gathering these flowers. Avoiding the thorns isn’t hard, but if you mess up you’ll feel it. Gloves are essential. A tablespoon or two of petals make for a nice cuppa.

I separated the good petals from the buds, and gave them a good wash. Tiny insects like to vibe in gorse flowers, so obviously it’s essential to evict them before drinking. Once the petals are clean you can just put them in your teapot, or toss them in a mug with some boiling water for ten minutes to steep.

Finn commented that the tea looks like urine, and he was not wrong. The hue was similar to the classic soda Mellow Yellow, but it smelled and tasted just like green tea. It unfortunately did not taste like I’d just risked an armful of puncture wounds for a drink. How boring. I recommend adding a drop of lemon juice to take away the lame factor. Although navigating thick thorns does make you feel like a badass, this tea isn’t worth the trouble.

My brother’s verdict: “Surprisingly, I actually want to drink it.”


Stinging Nettle Soup

Everybody knows this ouch oof bush of pain and misery. What most people don’t know is that stinging nettle is a superfood. It’s full of nutrients that help lower blood pressure, treat arthritis, and promote a healthy urine stream. That’s lovely and all, but I was too busy trying not to sting myself that I fucked up the recipe.

If you search for a nettle soup recipe, you’ll find countless pages of high society dishes with a stupid amount of ingredients. That didn’t feel very foragey to me. Instead, I found a minimalist recipe which was quite popular in the eighteenth century.

Picking the stinging nettle took a painfully long time because I couldn’t find many young plants. If the plant has flowered they can cause kidney failure. I did not think it was worth having kidney failure over quite an average soup, so I avoided those ones.

Once I found some young plants and picked them, I washed my crop. The needles still looked ominous and quite painful, so I got out a rolling pin and crushed them just in case. Was this necessary? I don’t know. Probably not.

I caramelized some onions and gave my nettles a quick fry, then tossed them into some boiling water. The recipe calls for you to fry these in a shit load of butter, but my brother doesn’t eat dairy, so I swapped it for olive oil. In hindsight, I think the excess amount of butter was probably there to make the stinging nettle have some flavour.

I let the concoction, which by this stage smelt questionable to say the least, to boil for some time. Then I noticed I had mistaken the word ‘simmer’ for ‘boil’, and had reduced my soup into a foul looking paste. I added more water to compensate. I made the tactical decision to not tell my brother that I was doing a terrible job.

The next ingredient to add was some stale bread, which I foraged from the supermarket bargain bin. As I watched the bread soak and fall apart I started to regret not using a modern recipe. It didn’t look very nice. Then I realised I completely forgot I was meant to add flour to the nettle while I fried it about 15 minutes ago. Panicked, I decided to just throw it in now and stir it up.

I served up a bowl of what Finn described as “dog vomit”. It didn’t smell particularly good either. We plunged our spoons in expecting the worst, but it turns out it just tastes really boring. The stinging nettle had nothing to offer in the taste department, and the texture was terrible. Finn told me that what I had made “just tastes like bread, but in a soup format”, which is honestly not a bad result considering how awful it looked.

My brother’s verdict: “Soup, but bad.”

This article first appeared in Issue 6, 2020.
Posted 3:58pm Sunday 10th May 2020 by Wyatt Ryder.