Foraging for frittata
Spring is such an exciting time of the year. But it can also be very frustrating for those of us who try growing our own or eating seasonally. While everything around us is bursting into life, between March and May there is very little happening in the veggie patch – apart from the hectic digging, sowing and netting in preparation for the growing season of course. During this infamous ‘hungry gap’ it is indeed rather hard to stay away from the supermarket shelves nicely stocked with imported or hothoused spring produce.
Luckily there is another way to spice up the local spring offerings without increasing your greenhouse gas emissions – foraging! It’s free and it gets you out and about and in touch with your local landscape too. A perfect combination.
Two of the spring foraging classics are nettles and wild garlic. Both are easy to identify and distinguish from poisonous plants so they are perfect for beginners. We are all, often painfully, familiar with the stinging nettles as a common garden weed – and they can be found virtually everywhere. Wild garlic is a bit trickier as it tends to be confined to shady wooded areas near watercourses, but once you locate a patch you should be set for the season as it usually very abundant.
I have enjoyed both this year – below I share one recipe which combines them together into perfectly local spring flavour.
Scottish spring frittata with nettles and wild garlic
After blanching to kill off the sting, nettles can be substituted for spinach in any recipe – I particularly like them in saag aloo or other curry-inspired creations. But recently I tried it in a Spanish classic with a Scottish twist. I was particularly excited as all ingredients for this dish can be sourced from Scotland right now! In fact – you can pick up the swede and the tatties through GK’s Fife Food for Fife Folk.
Ingredients (for large 30 cm pan):
- 8 eggs
- 4 medium waxy potatoes (King Edwards work well) sliced into 5mm pieces
- ¼ of a turnip or swede sliced into 5mm pieces
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced or chopped
- 10 leaves of wild garlic with stalks (or a tablespoonful of wild garlic pesto – try Mark Williams’ wicked recipe with hard goat’s cheese)
- 1/3 of shopping bag of nettle tops, blanched in hot water for a minute or so
- 125ml of rapeseed oil
- Salt and pepper to taste (if you like an extra kick – you can also add some chopped up chilli or chilli jam – like the ones from Chillilicious Farm in Fife)
- Heat the oil in the pan and add onions, chopped garlic leaf stalks and turnip slices – fry on medium heat until turnip starts to soften (around 5-8 min).
- Add sliced potato and continue frying until both potato and turnip are cooked through (another 8 min). Stir frequently – do not let the vegetables brown.
- Once cooked, strain the hot oil away. Return the potato mix to the pan with a tablespoon of the saved oil.
- In the meantime mix the eggs, chopped garlic (or pesto), blanched nettles and salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and turnip in the pan. Continue cooking on the hob until the egg at the bottom of the dish sets.
- Pop the pan under the grill for another 5 min or so until the egg mix at top is also set.
- Slice and serve! You can eat it hot or makes for a perfect cold picnic snack.
Identification and foraging tips
Important advice on foraging
Before you launch yourself into a foraging frenzy please have a look at the following advice:
- Galloway Wild Foods website has good sections on both – legal considerations and ethics and sustainability issues.
- Foraging safety – Forage London seems to have reasonable and comprehensive advice on this.
Nothing beats a live foraging walk to get you started! There is an abundance of these around – both paid and free:
- Plants with Purpose and Appletreeman of Perthshire are celebrating their anniversary with a series of spontaneous free foraging walks – look out for the announcements on their Facebook page or through their monthly newsletter (you can subscribe on their website).
- Scottish Natural Heritage has a Scotland’s Natural Larder programme which is promoting foraging – look out for events on their Facebook page or website.
There are also written resources – for example:
- Mark Williamson’s website Galloway Wild Foods seems like a particularly rich repository of Scottish foraging wisdom – including loads of wild food recipes from food to booze…(there are many others). I attended his foraging walk on Balgay Hill in Dundee this week and was mighty impressed with his delivery and knowledge so you may like to look out for his events (although they are on a more pricey side).
- A handbook of Scotland’s Wild Harvests – An authoritative new companion for sustainable foraging, produced through a partnership project between Reforesting Scotland and the Scottish Wild Harvests Association (SWHA). Loads of recipes with a Scottish twist too. At £5 for a paperback and £4 for a Kindle edition it looks rather like a good deal!