Frugal and free, two words that puts a spring in the step of anyone wanting to cut back on spending.
A few tears ago I was introduced to the idea of foraging for plants that grew wild and that were totally delicious to eat but that had just been forgotten by the modern world.
I must admit that at first I was a little skeptical and worried, after all things that grew wild were weeds and did I really want to eat weeds? Well it was explained to me that the term weeds was simply a word used for plants that grew wild, that's all and that many of them were eaten regularly in times gone by.
So I took some time to discover just what I was missing and I soon discovered that there were a multitude of wild plants that could be collected that were just as delicious as any that I could by in the supermarkets.
Foraging for food is becoming more and more popular, as many people all over the world rediscover forgotten plants etc that were once a part of a staple diet many years ago and that grow wild in the countryside.
Many of the plants that grow freely in the wild are edible and are full of healthy nutrients as well as being incredibly delicious.
You'll be surprised to know that some specialised restaurants actually pay for people to go out and pick wild sorrel and other underused plants to add to their specialised recipes (and charging you a fortune for food that grows free). A little caveat is that you do have to be careful when foraging in the woods and alone hedgerows that one the food you are picking is edible and secondly that you are not trespassing on land.
A few examples of frugal and free food that can be found whilst foraging are:
Berries - blackberries, elderberries, wild strawberries and Dewberries are just a few of the most common ones found growing wild. These are great for making wine, putting in pies, making jam and can be frozen so that you have a store of fresh summer fruit throughout the year.
Dandelion - the young leaves of the dandelion are great for adding to a salad. They are very good for you and full of nutrients.
Chickweed - similar in taste to Chard and be cooked like you would your greens.
Mushrooms - Only pick wild mushrooms if you know your mushrooms, as there are thousands of species and most of them are poisonous. However if you do find a wild batch of the edible ones they could save you lots of money (mushrooms are not cheap to buy).
Nasturtiums - both their leaves and petals can be eaten and have a peppery taste.
Elderflower - This is great to make into cordial and even alcohol free champagne. You'll never have to buy those soft drink squashes again. See the recipes for Elderflower cordial and Elderflower Champagne.
Garlic mustard - Great In raw in salads, mixed with more mild greens. It's also good steamed, simmered, or sautéed.
Japanese knotweed - this plant is a rather hated plant as it has the habit of taking over gardens etc and suffocating the other plants. It is also difficult to destroy once established. This means that it should be easy to find and when cooked can taste like rhubarb. It is an excellent source of vitamin A, as well as many other nutrients.
Nettles - Everyone has nettles growing somewhere nearby and so are plentiful. Use work gloves to strip off the leaves so that you don't get stung. the young leaves are the best part of the plant and can be cooked in a similar way as greens (steamed etc) and so are excellent as a side vegetable with a meal. They are also good in soups.
If you are really interested in finding out more about frugal and free foraging for your own food then the best place to go is "The Wildman - Steve Brill's" website. His website will tell you everything you need to know about how to and where to find wild food, what it looks like and how to cook it.
If like me you like the odd tipple, then making your wine may be a frugal and free option you may like to try out.
I have brewed several of my own wines and they have served me well, especially now that the price of wine and other alcohol is rising.
There are many great books available which will tell you how to make your own wine but my favourite (you will have to try and get it second hand) is First Steps in Winemaking by C.J.J.Berry. I recommend this book as it has a section about different wines to start at different times of the year when certain fruits, leaves etc are available in the wild. Thus making the whole process very cheap and enjoyable too.
Winemaking equipment can be very cheap too. You can save up your old bottles, use plain old buckets for brewing and many of your existing kitchen equipment can be pressed into action. You will have to buy a few essential ingredients but these too are very cheap compared to buying wine from the shops.
When you think back to how wine was first made by peasants and farmers it really does come under the heading of frugal and free, well they wouldn't have been able to afford much. It really is well worth giving home brewing a shot and a lot of fun too, especially on your first tasting. Hic!
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