I cooked up this dish back in February when the snow and frosts were making foraging rather difficult. Walking in my local park in London the only plants that seemed to have enough foliage for me to take a little bit were Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) and Crow garlic (Allium vineale).
Crow garlic has been out for most of the winter and it is easier to spot this time as it is not camouflaged amongst the grasses. It has hollow cylindrical leaves, looks like chives and it’s bulbs are similar to spring onions.
When I worked supplying restaurants with foraged goods I used to pick these two plants regularly around Whitstable, Kent. They brought back fond memories of the coast, making me want to eat them with seafood. Having recently read an article about the difficulties of determining which fish species are sustainable to buy I decided to try some mussels as they seemed to be the best bet for sustainability. Also, they are relatively easy to forage if you know how to do so safely.
I bought half a kilo from the helpful Hand Picked Shellfish stall at Queen’s Park farmers market. Not being that experienced with cooking molluscs I decided to try the classic white wine sauce, adding alexanders stems at the beginning and roughly chopped crow garlic at the end. The alexanders stems are best when they are young, they may need peeling when older as they can be a bit stringy.
The result was a very simple and satisfying recipe:
- Wash mussels, remove ‘beards’ and rinse, then discard any open ones that do not close when tapped
- Chop alexanders stems into 2-3cm pieces and fry in butter for 1 minute
- Add mussels to the pan, then fill with white wine until it covers a third of the mussels, cover with a lid
- Once steaming cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat
- Roughly chop the crow garlic then sprinkle on when serving the musssels in their sauce