Foraging for food in Orkney and Shetland

Here are some edible plants I have been munching on up in Orkney and Shetland these past two weeks. Been guiding with About Argyll Walking holidays who run week long walking tours in the northern isles.

I have to say a big thanks to Dr Carol West for teaching me so much about plants last week. Carol – from New Zealand – is an ecologist and expert in managing invasive species. Thanks Carol.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale Asteraceae). You can eat the flowers, leaves and roots. Kinda bitter tasting though.

Scurvy grass (Cochlearia officinalis Brassicaceae). The heart shaped waxy leaves are very nice to eat and high in vitamin C.

Orache (Atriplex). The leaves are good to eat. Salty taste.

Chickweed (Stellaria media Caryophyllaceae). You can eat the flowers, leaves and stalks. Slightly salty taste, light and fresh. Saltiness may have been because of its proximity to the sea.

Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosa Polygonaceae). One of my favourites. It has a sharp citric taste. Very common in the northern isles and has been cultivated for centuries.

Red clover (Trifolium pratense). I have been tasting these through the summer and I have noticed that the flowers and leaves tasted bitter in June but now in July are quite sweet.

Watercress (Nasturtiumofficinale Brassicaceae). Really tasty. One of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by man.

Angelica (Angelicasylvestris Apiaceae). The stalk of this plant has a lovely, distinctive fragrance and can be used to make jam and its root is used to flavour gin. Its young shoots and leaves are boiled in salted water and eaten like spinach, and it has been used to treat coughs, stomach catarrh, digestive complaints and abdominal wind. People have also noticed how sturdy wild angelica’s stem is: it makes a fine blowpipe for firing peas or rowan berries, and it can even be used to make a flute

You need to make sure you identify this plant correctly, you don’t went to get it mixed up with Hogweed.

Other edible wild foods I have been eating include:

  • Reindeer lichen (Cladonia rangiferina  Cladoniaceae)
  • Wild carrot (Daucus carota Apiaceae)
  • Bladerwrack seaweed (Fucus vesiculosus Phaeophyceae)
  • Gutweed (a kind of seaweed – Ulva intestinalis)
  • Limpets
  • Sow thistle (Sonchus arvensis Asteraceae)
  • Silverweed (Potentilla anserina Rosaceae) – have been eating the roots
  • ……..oh and some Rhubarb I found in the garden of a ruined craft in Fethaland.

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