Tag Archives: foraging

Picking wild fennel seeds

We use a lot of fennel seeds in our house, they add a subtle layer of fragrance without being a dominant flavour. So this summer I decided to become a forager and gather our own from the hillside. This turned out to be such a simple process, I’m kicking myself for not doing it earlier. In Spain, the seeds dry on the wild plant so it’s a matter of judging the right time to collect them before any rain. Or before the birds get them.

Wild fennel is the same plant as the domesticated variety, except it doesn’t set a bulb, can grow very tall, has smaller seeds, and in places grows like a weed. The beautiful yellow globes are a familiar sight around here. How to forage:-
When your chosen day arrives, go for a walk with a pair of scissors and a paper bag. Find your plant and check each seed head – some will have already been eaten by birds, some just don’t set seed. Look for the seed heads with the largest seeds, cut them off and put them in your bag. If I don’t have time to deal with them straight away, I will lay them out in the sun to dry. Alternatively, I tie the bag with string and hang it in the pantry. The seed should separate itself from the seed head within a couple of weeks.

Shake the contents of the bag onto some clean paper. Take one seed head at a time and remove the seeds with your thumb and forefinger, dropping them into a dish. Pick through the seeds and remove any twigs, dust and debris. Put your seeds into a jar, seal it and freeze for a week. After that, it’s ready to use. 

How to dry inside:-
Strip the seeds from the stalks and scatter on a baking tray.
Place in the oven at a low temperature for 30 mins or until they feel dry.
Now they can be stored whole in a sealed jar, or ground to powder in a coffee grinder [I recommend keeping a grinder specifically for spices].

5 to remember
un proceso simple – a simple process
inmediatamente – straight away
un globo – a globe
un molinillo de café – a coffee grinder
yo recomiendo – I recommend

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Picking wild fennel seeds #foraging #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2p3 via @Spanish_Valley





Giant fennel: dead or alive

Everywhere we look, there is wild fennel. It loves the stony ground here. It is a perennial herb, and doesn’t develop into the fleshy bulb that we are used to seeing in the supermarkets. But it is still edible. It is one of the prized targets of the locals, seen walking along roads and paths every day of the year, bag in hand, foraging for edible wild food. Easily collected are the seeds of the fennel plant, which can be dried and used all year round.

The first green fronds in spring are wonderful snipped off and used as a topping for stews or as an addition to salads. By the end of summer, the stems are tall and are drying out, bearing yellow flowers and bracts of immature seeds. These seeds eventually fall but the stems stay in place, turning silver and black over the winter, adding welcome shape and colour to the winter landscape here.

common wildflowers of spain by austen colwell 24-8-15


Please, always take care when foraging for wild food. Before you eat anything, make sure it is edible. This is a useful little book, Common Wildflowers of Spain by Austin Colwell [Santana Books].


5 to remember
gigante – giant
inmaturo/a – immature
una bráctea – a bract
alimentos silvestres – wild food
comestible – edible

Foraging for wild asparagus

The idea of collecting wild food from the countryside seems something from a bygone age or for devoted foodies. But here it is quite common to see people out for their afternoon stroll on a country road, carrying a bag. At this time of year they are looking for wild asparagus and herbs. Soon it will be fresh spring leaves and fennel. In the autumn, mushrooms.
asparagus1 5-4-15We just missed the asparagus season this year. Espárrago – or párrago as Pablo calls it – is easy to spot once you know what you are looking for. If you don’t it is possible to trample over it and destroy your lunch. It most commonly resembles grass. Once you recognise the leaves of the plant, then you start to see it everywhere. It grows in unploughed, undisturbed soil, so most commonly alongside tracks and up hillsides.

5 to remember
buscar algo – to forage for something [supper]
de antaño – bygone
devoto/a – devoted
un/una gourmet – a foodie
los hongos – the mushrooms

Wild asparagus and scrambled eggs for lunch

It took two hours of wandering along the tracks to pick this bunch of wild asparagus yesterday. It grows best on wild undisturbed ground and can be difficult to spot, even when you’re standing on it. wild asparagus - bunch 17-4-13The stems are impossibly tough, so we’ve learned to trim off the tips and avoid the flowering stems which are not good to eat. This is as different from cultivated asparagus as you can get. Some are green, some purple, some are as slender as grass, others are more recognizably asparagus… all of it is edible. wild asparagus - prepped 17-4-13Our preferred method is to blanch in boiling water, then add to scrambled eggs. Today we eat it with crusty bread and a cold beer, sitting on the terrace, listening to the poop-poop-poop of a hoopoe somewhere in the valley. wild asparagus - revueltos 18-4-13
5 to remember
el revuelto – the scrambled eggs
los huevos rotos – the broken eggs
salvaje – wild
el tallo – the stem
la punta – the tip

If you like this, try these:-
Mustardy Salmon Salad
Pasta with Gorgonzola and Pecans
Cheesy Nutty Herby Mushrooms

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Foraging for our lunch: wild asparagus #Recipe in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-ed