Friday, 1 May 2015

Nuts in May?

The children's rhyme or song "Here We Go Gathering Nuts In May" has always slightly confused me as generally nuts are to be gathered later in the year.  That was until I realised that the nuts referred to in the song were (most probably) pignuts! These beauties pop up at this time of year, their delicate white flower is finer than that of their cowparsley cousins, and the root ball, or 'nut', is edible. They often team up with bluebells, which are poisonous, but it'll take more than that to deter me from trying free food.  I read up about how to harvest them and discovered that it's a tricky and time-consuming business, requiring some dexterity to tease a long stick down the stem until the 'nut' is located.  Thus, it was deemed suitable work, (along with chimney-sweeping and darting about under fast-moving textile machinery), for those 19th century urchins singing the song.

Even though I'd read that pignuts grow sparsely, there seems to be an abundance at Woodsman's Cabin and so off we went with our puggling sticks.  It wasn't easy though, and progress was slow until Bob tired of the foraging malarky and weighed in with his trusty spade, which brought faster results.  (WARNING! this method of harvesting is strictly not recommended).  They are quite tasty, a bit like a raw hazelnut but with slight celeryish undertones.  By this stage though, we were still quite hungry so abandoned further foraging in favour of bacon sandwiches, (feeling lucky to live in a land of choice and plenty).

Further research reveals that the nuts in the song may be a corruption of 'knots' referring to hawthorn (or 'May') blossom, I'm sticking with the pignut version though.
Pignuts at Woodsman's cabin.

Proper instructions on how to forage for pignuts can be found here

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