Thursday, 21 September 2017

Pennywort for Your Thoughts

As you can tell from some of our recent posts, we are in full foraging mode at the moment. Autumn is squirrelling season; so we've been collecting fungi, blackberries, sloes, cobnuts and anything else that comes into our sights.  Aside from the fact that this food is free, any shop brought version would have to go a long way to beat the wild stuff on taste, freshness, variety, and nutritional content. 

We've been enjoying Pennywort recently too, although this is one plant to look out for all year round.  Pennywort leaves are fleshy and succulent and are difficult to confuse with any other plant. You will often find them growing in stone walls, rock crevices, banks, hedgerows, and also sometimes on tree trunks (where we found these ones), and their mainstay environment is particularly in the West Country.  They have a delicate taste that I think is somewhere between pea shoots and a crisp lettuce.  We've simply been adding a few into a green salad but you can also add them into a stir-fry. I often graze on them when we are out walking.

Pennywort comes in many guises.  The one we pick is actually called Wall Pennywort but is also sometimes referred to as Navelwort (due to it's belly button indentation in the middle of the leaf), or Penny Pies.  There are other more aquatic Pennyworts too, one of which is actually quite invasive in the UK it seems.  You may have already heard of the Asiatic Pennywort as it is more commonly referred to as Gotu Kola.  It is used widely in Ayurvedic medicine, as well as being used as a culinary leaf in places like Sri Lanka.  We remember our friend Kasanjith, who owned an Ayurvedic hotel in Sri Lanka, using it to make a delicious and nutritious green porridge, called Kola Kenda, for us many years ago. 

The use of gotu kola in Ayurvedic medicine has spanned centuries and its health claims, still around in our modern medical world, are many and varied including improving memory, brain function, circulation, skin conditions, and wound healing.  Any search on the Internet brings up a huge amount of results, some evidence based, some not, and the web is awash with supplement after supplement containing gotu kola.  There surely must be something in it?  Personally, however, I would rather stick to Kasanjith's homemade green porridge or grazing on our own UK wild pennyworts as we stroll through the Cornish countryside.*

*Although pennyworts are difficult to confuse with any other plant, as is the case with any wild foods, please do not pick and eat them if you are in any way unsure. Please also show consideration when harvesting them.  Only take what you can eat and only take a very few leaves of any one plant, ensuring there are plenty to continue to grow. 

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