Getting Back to the Sloe Life
Recently, life has not felt very ‘sloe’. In fact, things have felt hectic, busy, chaotic: everything that – when we started this blog back in 2019 – we wanted to defend ourselves against. Work obligations, family events and central heating malfunctions have all interrupted the calm rhythms of our days. Even finding time to write – either for this blog or for our Instagram – has seemed like just another chore to fit into already busy schedules. Celebrating the slow, the seasonal and the sustainable has felt like a distant dream.
So, to mark the various spring celebrations this week – the March Equinox, Nowruz, Ugadi – we went back to basics this weekend; foraging, cooking, and preserving. Mornings spent outside, and afternoons in the kitchen. Starting spring as we mean to continue.
The foraging season is just starting again after the lull of winter. It is the perfect time for harvesting three very similar wild greens: Wild Garlic, Three-Cornered Leek and Few-Flowered Garlic. All are edible (and delicious), but this weekend we collected armfuls of the latter.
Few-Flowered Garlic – much less famous than (and very easily confused with!) its more garlicky cousin – is a wonderful ingredient, combining the flavours of onion, leek and garlic. It is also an invasive species, so harvesting for private consumption is almost encouraged by law. Every part of three-cornered leek is edible – leaves, flowers and roots – though make sure you seek permission from the landowner if you plan to actually uproot any wild plants.
We could smell it the moment we got out of the car, more than 100 meters away from where it was growing as a thick carpet: a soft, mellow scent, closer to the sweetness of spring onion than the acidity of garlic. We changed into wellington books and cut across the grass towards the river. The hunched outline of a muntjac deer watched us from behind a cluster of coppiced willows.
There was a slight, steep drop to the edge of the water, and we found ourselves shin-deep in the thin, green fingers of Few-Flowered Garlic. The crisp white flowers – just one or two on each plant – were beginning to unfold from their tissue-paper sheaves.
At this level, the smell was much stronger, and when I bent down to start harvesting some of the leaves, bright leek freshness exploded with every snip of the scissors. We came away with a bag of leaves, and a handful of whole uprooted plants.
Back in the kitchen, after thoroughly washing our harvest, we used the leaves for a large batch of vibrant green risotto – the leftovers of which would make arancini the following day – and a long sausage of flavoured butter, which we will cut into thin disks and freeze, ready to be melted over rice, steaks or fish. The chunkiest roots were saved to replace spring onions in a meal later in the week.
In total, we probably spent four hours in the kitchen, preserving and cooking with our foraged greens, listening to music, dancing, and talking. A slow, simple, quiet way to spend a Saturday evening, but we can honestly say we haven’t enjoyed ourselves more in months.
It’s not always easy. The demands of life invariably get in the way of the things that matter the most, which for us are moments like this: exploring outside, finding wild foods, spending time in the kitchen, eating seasonally. For some reason, we tell ourselves that other things are more ‘important’ or ‘urgent’, and they have a habit of taking over.
So, a spring resolution. It is the things that bring us the most joy, calm and happiness that are the most important things, and should be treated as such: by making time for them. We must book time in our calendar, and prioritise it over other things, at least some of the time. It requires a different mindset to prioritise activities that are often deemed less urgent, but in fact they are more urgent: after just one morning outside and one afternoon in the kitchen, we realised just how urgently we have needed this time.
We are already reserving next weekend for nettles…
 Section 14.2 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act makes it a criminal offence “if any person plants of otherwise caused to grow” three-cornered leek. [back]
 Section 13.1.b of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act states that “if any person… not being an authorised person, intentionally uproots any wild plant… he shall be guilty of an offence”. [back]