On May day we walked along the remains of Watling Street, the sun was smiling down upon us and, in places where the old Roman road meets the new A1, we decided to mark International Sunflower Guerilla Gardening Day by ‘improving’ some of the roadside verges.
On busy, Bank Holiday weekends the cars moving along the A1 always look like a procession of giant, though somewhat depressed, snails. Despite the ad-man’s promises of ‘freedom’ there doesn’t seems to be much fun to be had carrying a ton of metal around with you everywhere you go. But the warmth of sunflower yellow never fails to lift the heart and a few seeds planted in May may help to put a smile on a bored, auto-im-mobile drivers face during the summer months.
Drivers minds are full of hours, minutes and final destinations; no matter their age, drivers and passengers alike long to be ‘nearly there’. But for walkers there is no defining line between ‘journey’ and the ‘destination’ (or ‘free-will’ and ‘destiny’ for that matter); it’s often hard to tell whether the whims that drive us are our own creation or mother natures’.
We had spent some time sowing seeds near a large overpass and had planned to walk another couple of miles to plant some more at a spot we knew further north. Anyone who walks near the A1 will know how hard it is to cross nowadays, even without the holiday period traffic. We decided to drop beneath the flyover and skirt around a patch of woodland that may once have been a part of the great and noble Barnsdale Forest (home to the original Robin Hood, long before he went upmarket and relocated to Sherwood). At the edge of the wood we were hit by one of the most distinctive and powerful of Britain’s natural odours – Ramsons!
We Greenjackers find most air-fresheners an insult to nature. The blurb on the can might say ‘Pine Scented’ or ‘Woodland Dell’, but the choking fumes are like nothing you’d find in the great outdoors. Sometimes though, nature can be just as powerful as man in creating aromas – though rarely as crude. Humans can smell a well established patch of flowering Ramsons from a good 10 metres away.
Ramsons (Allium ursinum) or ‘Wild Garlic’ is perhaps the easiest wild food to identify after Stinging Nettles (a recipe for Nettle & Wild Garlic Soup will feature in our next Stinging Nettle Diary entry – coming soon). The starburst white flowers shine like fireworks in the low, dusk-like, light of the woodland floor. The lush, dark green, leaves are similar to Lily-of-the-Valley, but bruise them between your fingers and you’ll get a wonderful whiff of garlic. If you have never foraged for wild food, but would like to try, then this is probably the best plant to start with.
Ramsons leaves are edible; they can be used as salad, seasoning or boiled as a vegetable. They can be finely chopped to replace chives (to which Ramsons are related) or as an ingredient for pesto in lieu of basil. The bulbs and flowers are also very tasty. They’re also supposed to be great with Lamb. So get out and enjoy this wonderful FREE OFFER, but be quick, it won’t last forever!