John Wright’s The Forager’s Calendar: A Seasonal Guide to Nature’s Wild Harvest is published today by Profile Books. Read an edited extract from the ‘April’ chapter below:
While the first few days of April will find a landscape that is predominantly brown, by the end it is green and lush in everything except the larger trees. All is new and usually untouched by the dread hand of the council strimmer, a horror that begins in mid-May. April is the traditional month for collecting gorse and dandelion flowers (on the 23rd, though there is no rule about it!) as well as St George’s Mushrooms, also on the 23rd (St George’s Day).
I have eaten snails almost twice. The first time was in a very posh restaurant indeed, and they had been prepared (by somebody else) and did not look like snails at all. I quite liked them. The ‘almost’ time was when I determined to expand my foraging horizons and collected half a dozen from the bottom of the garden. I fed them lettuce, then starved them for a few days. Girding my loins, I cooked two of them, inexpertly unwound one from its shell and made my big mistake. I looked at it. The poor thing’s insides were hanging out, and there was no longer any way I could put it in my mouth as I had intended. I nibbled a few of the less disgusting parts and decided that it was pretty tasteless and that I was missing nothing. Actually, there were two other occasions when I almost ate a garden snail – with lettuce from my garden in a salad prepared by my wife.
Many people enjoy the so-called edible snail, Helix pomatia, and good luck to them. I have spoken to some who have endless recipes for this mollusc, and they tell me that the Garden Snail is even better. If you wish to eat the snails consuming your lettuces instead of disposing of them by throwing them next door, then make sure they have not been eating anything poisonous, and purify them as I did. I can’t think about this for much longer, so my brief advice is to put your purified victims in the fridge for an hour so that you can imagine they have fallen asleep, then boil them for fifteen minutes in a court bouillon. After that you are on your own, but Wild Garlic should be involved somewhere along the line. And remember, don’t look at it before you pop one into your mouth.
‘The Forager’s Calendar’ (Profile, hardback, 400 pages) is out now and available here, priced £16.99.