Free food is sometimes the best food of all. Freshly picked, organic plants will add a large amount of goodness to your diet for a minimum of cost or sometimes even no cost at all! And sharing food with people can lead to great connections too.
Giving and Receiving Free Food
Olio is an app that you can download to your phone to share food in your local area. It does have a desktop version too. People share things that they can’t use up in time from their fridge, or cupboard items that they no longer want. Farmers and gardeners sometimes offer produce that they have too much of. It’s a win/win concept. Less waste and less hunger!
Many wild plants are edible and extremely good for you. Young dandelion leaves are excellent in salads, rich in nutrients and great for detoxifying as are young beech leaves. Dandelions make excellent pancakes (see our recipe). Nettles (yes, do wear gloves when picking) don’t sting once cooked. They are a traditional remedy for people who are run down and have a near perfect balance of iron, vitamin C, calcium and magnesium and are even high in protein. See our soup recipe. Wild garlic grows in woodland and is harvestable in April/May – see our pesto recipe using it. Chickweed is a bit like spinach when lightly boiled. During the summer you can find wild raspberries growing in woods. In autumn blackberries/brambles are to be found. With all wild foods, don’t gather them by busy roads where they will have been polluted and check thoroughly for signs of insects!
Food for Free – a great guide to Britain’s wild foods – goji berries may cost a bit, but many super foods are all around us for the taking! A great favourite of ours – detailing wild herbs, berries, greens, sea vegetables and fungi.
The most economical plants to grow in your garden are perennials – those which come up every year. You buy them once and then have harvests for years to come.
If you like summer fruits the price in the shops is very high – £20 will buy you a few red/black/white currant or raspberry or gooseberry bushes which will give you fruit each summer. Strawberry plants are even cheaper and multiply each year – if you know someone who grows them you could ask for some of their runners or new plants.
When Huw Richards was a baby his family moved to a smallholding to become self-sufficient. In his latest book he focuses on making growing cheap or even free with lots of money saving tips and tricks. Lovely colour photography throughout too.
The YouTube Channel that he’s been running since he was 12, is extremely informative too.
If you like to use herbs in cooking, teas or as remedies it’s well worth investing in a few plants or growing from seed. Lovage comes up each year and provides large quantities of celery flavoured leaves which are great in soups and casseroles. Likewise sage, thyme, parsley (a biennial – lasts two years), fennel, mint, lavender, chives and valerian are all quite hardy and should give you many years of flavour and scent.
We planted two tiny plants of golden oregano years ago and look at it (in the foreground) now!
A little veggie plot can save lots too – a packet of lettuce or cabbage seeds for under a pound should give you at least 20 plants. ‘Cut and come again’ or ‘salad bowl’ lettuce varieties are great as they keep growing as you cut the leaves you want so last much longer. Kale is a marvelous vegetable – it continues growing, albeit slowly, through winter and provides green leaves to be chopped into soups for at least two years. Peas are very easy to grow and seem to survive well even in amongst lots of weeds! Everyone loves them straight out of the pod.
You can search for the seeds you want on Amazon and compare sellers/prices. If you buy several packs from the same person or business they will usually reduce your postage on request.
Thompson and Morgan offer extremely high quality seeds at low prices and they have various offers on throughout the year.
Many flowers are edible – nastursiums have a peppery sweet taste – both the leaves and flowers are edible. Marigold petals are a colourful addition to a salad.
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