This time of year in the vegetable garden is known as the 'hungry gap' just when most of your Winter veggies are finishing and the Spring harvest is just getting going there is little fresh greenery to choose from. Now is a good time to look to the hedgerows! It is fairly well known that you can pick and eat stinging nettles, but what else is there? Did you know you can pick and eat hop shoots?
You can pick hop shoots
at this early time of Spring because they are still tender and green. Much later and they will be a bit too chewy. Just take the very tip of the hop shoots, no more than about 5" - which is probably down to the 2nd leaf joint. If you pick too much then the darker coloured stems are a little bit tacky (like the weed old man's beard, or sticky willy....)
One nice portion fits into a small handful like this.
On holiday in Venice a couple of years ago I saw this local delicacy for sale in the Rialto Market. In Italy it is known as Bruscandoli, they chop it up and eat it as a vegetable, or traditionally in a Bruscandoli Risotto. Sold in bunches on the market for onl a few short weeks at this time of year.
So I gently simmered it in water for about 5 minutes and served with butter. This really was lovely! A tasty green vegetable dish which tastes somewhere between spinach and asparagus. Highly recommended!