The humble seed ! It’s the beginning the end and a whole lot in between next time you’ve got one on your plate just take a moment to reflect on the magical journey that infante numbers of those little energy bombs travel every single second of every day since the dawn of time .
I have spent countless hours over the last few weeks collecting and processing a mass of wild edible seeds and I’m not going to make light of the fact that some of them are hugely time and energy expensive but one Leads to another and so on and each little package adds a new and valued flavour or texture to my larder .
One statement I feel quite safe in making is that every single person on the planet has at one time or another eaten seeds in some form or another in fact if you think about it they have to be up there with the single most important food sources on the planet , they are responsible for most common used oils and flour it’s a fact that without them our diet would be very different indeed .
As foragers all of us at some point have collected seeds in some form hazel nuts for example are common throughout the uk , I’ve decided to mention my personal favourites and will include any info I’ve observed surrounding the collection or processing . A plant goes to great lengths to produce each seed and fill it with high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, proteins, essential oils and dormant enzymes and these are readily available to us for different levels of effort and once we have learned to harness there individual qualities our diet will be better for it they are a true wild super food .
The first on my list has to be the mighty acorn the first wild edible I experimented with I now make kgs of flour and coffee every year process found here . acorns
A noteworthy comment is that a good friend of me used the liquid from leaching to treat his Psoriasis one cup in his bath every day .
My second seed is quite a common one in foraging terms it’s the hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium)
It’s one of the years earliest seeds to collect it is highly aromatic and full of flavour dried is preferred as green they tend to be bitter to taste ,
my favourite use is as a flavouring in bread or a ground seasoning in soup I feel it needs a dampener due to its overpowering nature , that said I have had the pleasure of mark Williams wild Parkin and it was quite amazing and defiantly should be tried ,
The next has to be wild vetch I love the tinny micro peas either in or out of the pods they are a great addition to any salad , no big supposes they taste like sweet peas these have to be harvested green as they ripen hard as little rocks
Another salad seed has to be the wild radish pods (Raphanus raphanistrum)
The little tadpole pods are a mild radish flavour which raw is a nice peppery addition to salads but also holds up well to cooking in stirfrys or stews they also make some of the best wild pickles available
The Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera ) has a duel purpose seed dried they take on a subtle walnut taste but raw still in the pods they are smooth and creamy with the added bonus of the popping if served in a salad complete with pods which are edible they add the great trick of exploding on the plate and once popped they look great
Fat hen , goosefoots and orache all produce seeds in good quantities and although they do tend to have little taste raw toasted they add another dimension altogether simply spread them over a baking tray add a small amount of oil and toast for 8-12 minutes they are good on salads or adds a great crust to a lasagne
Wild carrot seeds (Daucus carota) are a bit of a quandary as the only one of the family I find more pleasant green than dried they have a signature celery taste but green they are almost sweet and ground over shellfish or seafood paella add a unique flavour , when dried they become bitter and need to be used very sparingly
It’s probably appropriate to follow the carrot with its close relative the wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa ) which I place between the carrot and hogweed and as a seasoning for vegetable soups or strong fish dishes will not be matched take care when harvesting some notes here
Alexander seeds (Smyrnium olusatrum) are one of my favourites I’ve used them to season meat dishes and sour sweets alike I’ve had people who dis ribs the taste as pepper to Rosemary and it seems to differ from person to person I get a mild balsamic taste and use it as I would any balsamic vinegar
Probably the best looking edible seed comes from the mallows (Malva ) and is referred to as the cheese due to there parcel like shape and like the plant they are full of medicinal attributes and they hold a crunchy texture which does not taste of cheese but a nutty taste I’ve also pickled them this year and they have retained the crunch and structure very well
Probably the most commonly advertised seed due to its huge herbal attributes is the nettle (Urtica dioica) this seed is used in teas and toasted has a really pleasant taste mixed with oil and used to flavour pasta dishes my favourite use is in cheese sandwiches mixed into butter I really enjoy the taste a notable fact is that whole stems harvested make it much easier to collect then hung on a washing line for the first day as they house a mad number of little critters then transferred into a drying / collection bag to finish I place a layer of twigs at the base of the bag which catches any leaves and separates the seeds .
Another family I’m grouping together is the mustards from garlic mustard to charlock they are one of the most labour intensive seeds to collect and separate from the pods but once I used them to make my own completely wild mustard I was hooked and then from there I use them as a simple pepper substitute if you have the time simply fill paper bags full of the pods giving them a shake every day and they will naturally release the seeds .
I’ve not found many wild seeds suitable for desert dishes but one I’ve found is a brilliant substitute for nutmeg the love in a mist plant ( Nigella damascena)
and it has definite Christmassy heat to it in fact it’s my secret weapon for wild food doubters to harvest simply cut the alien looking pods and bag like Poppy’s
Another spice suitable for deserts is the seeds of stagshorn shumac (Rhus typhina) which has a acidic taste reminiscent of citrus fruits the heads striped of seed and dried then ground have an amazing colour which transfers well into syrups, icing or drinks
The last has to be the alliums from ramsons to crow garlic they all have edible seeds and don’t rely need any introduction guess what they taste garlicky and can be used as a flavouring in cooked foods as well as raw salads they pickle well and are a great beginner seed as if it smells of garlic it’s edible and we have no poisonous garlics
Obviously I’ve only touched on a very small number of the wild seeds available and would love to hear of any of your favourites there are so many wild edibles all around us all see need to do is find the knowledge to utilise them ,