This tree’s sobriquet ‘silver’ is a comparatively recent invention – often credited to a Tennison poem. In reality the second part of its scientific name (Betula alba) seems more apt (it means ‘white’). This is particularly so in late winter when the bleached bark stands out in damp woods. Foresters usually regard it as a weed, but more charitable voices describe it as a ‘pioneer’, for this is usually first to appear on waste ground, thanks to its downy seeds which can be carried long distances by the wind.
This is one of the first plants to start growing in early spring and is readily available when almost everything else is still dormant. It is found across the country and is particularly frequent on bare and freshly turned soil, although it is also often found growing from the crevices in walls. As a result it is one of the commonest garden weeds, but few people realise it has a fine tangy flavour as they toss it on the compost heap.
Britain has several species of edible crab – including spider, swimming and mitten – but the prime eating species here has always been Cancer pagurus, commonly known as the edible or brown crab. This is a nocturnal predator/scavenger which – as an adult – typically lives in relatively shallow water near the shore where it […]
Having just been given a bottle of the most amazingly pungent and aromatic truffle oil, I feel it’s time to spread the word about this fantastic ingredient (which is also a perfect Christmas gift for a foodie) . . . Truffle oil is an expensive, but worthwhile, addition to the kitchen cupboard. It is not […]
If ever there was magic in my kitchen cupboard it is in the jars, buckets and sealed bags of of dried mushrooms. No ingredient could look less promising and yet, when brought to life by a 10-minute soak in warm water, those little funghi have so much to offer. Slices of dried porcini are expensive […]
Most Britons are instinctively wary of fungi, treating all unfamiliar mushrooms as ‘toadstools’ and refusing to touch, let alone taste them. This is a great pity for some have simply superb eating qualities. The best way for the beginner to get started in this rewarding past time is to target a few of the best […]
Often dubbed the ‘freshwater shark’, these voracious hunters are highly-prized delicacies on the Continent, but almost completely absent from British menus . . . This is a pity because they are both abundant in our waters and most anglers loathe them, so even if one doesn’t fish oneself, asking around the local angling association can […]
Most people think of nettles as an irritating fact of spring and summer life. Certainly they are a significant barrier to wearing shorts on walks along overgrown footpaths, but they can also be a valuable resource . . . Their most obvious use is as a food. While many green shoots and leaves are described […]
Although most of the world values its freshwater fish as a valuable and delicious source of protein, they are largely ignored in Britain. Carp, pike, perch and eel are all regarded as delicacies in Europe, yet here are generally dismissed as too muddy or bony to eat. The notable exception to the general disregard are […]
Until relatively recently braces of woodpigeons would hang outside most butchers. Shot as an agricultural pest, they were rightly valued for their rich dark flesh. Indeed, along with rabbits they were one of the cheapest and easiest meats to acquire during the war. They were so popular that one poacher’s trick was to tie the […]