The Urban Forager’s Dream

However unlikely it sounds, I truly believe that the Wolverhampton 21 flight of locks really does represent the urban forager’s dream. Since I began being interested foraging, I have travelled it three times and it has not yet let me down. I just wish my energy levels would keep up with its abundance!

Today must have been the best haul yet. The day dawned brilliantly sunny and the promise of bounty was in the air. I was eager to jump ship as no sooner had we entered Pendeford Narrows than I spotted some teeny tiny Wild Strawberries. But the Captain was a man on a mission and I was refused shore leave. I decided mutiny at this point in our journey was unwise so chose to bow to his authority. This was not easy. Submission is not a natural state for me.

However, my patience was rewarded as we pulled out of the first lock by a bank of Wild Raspberries. They were on the far side of the canal so impossible to reach without a boat. Handily, there was a boat in front of us meaning we had to loiter waiting our turn for the lock anyway. Joy was mine! Within minutes our hands were stained red as the juices ran down our fingers and the air was filled with the occasional yelp as we hit thorns rather than the gorgeously squishy fruit. During all the excitement, we managed to tip my berry picker over the side and discovered that it could not float. I say ‘we’ … Note to self: do not place anything you value on the sloping roof of the boat.

The raspberry haul was largely unaffected by this calamity so undaunted we carried on. By this time, the 18 year old and the Captain were into the lock groove and I was given foraging leave, so off I went. I left at Lock 20 and rejoined them at Lock 8 by which time I had a basket full of Red Clover, Japanese Rose Hips, Wild Raspberries and Rose Petals.

The rose petals were set to dry on a wire rack for use later in the year.

They are currently sitting in the shower tray which is the most out of the way place I could find, and is actually pretty dry. When not in use. Obviously.

The Japanese Rose Hips were definitely ready for picking – they were huge, soft and rapidly being eaten by the birds. There were also loads of them. I took but a mere fraction.

I have put them in the freezer overnight as I know the autumnal variety improve in flavour after the first frosts so it seemed like a good idea. Plus, I cannot deal with them today.

The red clover I have turned into a rice salad and I am not sure my family are going to be convinced. It looks pretty:

But I am bound to say that the flowers themselves are not overflowing with flavour. I think unless there is a very good reason for eating something for its own sake, it really should taste good to make it worth the while. However, I will reserve judgement until after tea tonight and pass on the family’s opinion tomorrow. If they hate it, at least we have the raspberries for pud! In the meantime, this is the recipe I used:

Red Clover Rice Salad

Serves 3

2 large handfuls of Clover leaves and blossoms

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 handful of freshly chopped mint (I used garden mint)

125g rice

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Cook the rice until tender in boiling salted water. Drain and mix with oil and orange juice while still hot. Wash the clover leaves, split into leaflets. Pick over blossoms and separate half into individual petals keeping the other half whole. Stir leaves and blossoms into rice.