Wild Garlic

Long, rambling gardens are underrated (and nowadays often sold off to build more houses on). This seems a shame.

Long, rambling gardens are underrated (and nowadays often sold off to build more houses on). This seems a shame.

Wild garlic is a plant for all the senses: it looks, smells and tastes fantastic. Since discovering this free culinary marvel, I’ve grown increasingly fond of it, giving it a whirl in everything from pesto to pasta and soup to stir fry. Having said that, I never quite get round to picking enough, a great shame since there’s almost no finer wild food ingredient. And don’t just take it from me, take it from a real connoisseur: there’s a species of hoverfly called Portevenia maculata which feeds exclusively on wild garlic. Its larvae develop over winter within the bulbs and roots whilst the grey-black adults are often found resting on a ramson leaf in May or June.  Continue reading

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New Networks

Beetles, networking?

Beetles, networking?

I’m not sure when this happened, but I’ve become an invertebrate activist. Attending the fifth annual New Networks for Nature event last week, I found myself keeping eyes and ears alert for all things spineless. I must say, it took a while before I was satisfied. With apologies to Hattie Ellis, whose presentation on the contribution of honey and bees to human culture was really quite interesting, honeybees don’t count. Everybody likes bees nowadays, don’t they? So I was delighted when Brett Westwood began his contribution to the ‘What Does It Mean To Be A Naturalist?’ session by putting up a photograph of a slug, sat on top of a mushroom. Now that was more like it! A lemon slug at that. Not a creature I’d ever heard of before, but I think it’s fair to say that lemon slugs were one of the surprise hits of the weekend.

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Spider Season

Every year without fail I am astonished by the sheer quantity of webbing produced by spiders in the autumn. And not being a spider expert, I can’t really say where it all comes from either. Besides the rear end of a spider, that is. Do spiders, like many animals, breed during the summer, producing an annual surplus of young ones which then spread out and begin to establish their own webs? I don’t know.

IMG_2929What I do know is that the visual effect can be stunning, especially when combined with a heavy dewfall or frost. Dawn at Moor Green Lakes nature reserve last Sunday saw every nettle clump, bramble stem, gorse bush and blade of grass liberally draped with silk, as though a bunch of spiders were having a street party and had got a bit carried away with the bunting. The whole scene was delicately picked out in droplets of early mist rising up from the lake, clinging to any and every surface they touched.

Is this the most underrated pleasure of the season? An overlooked natural spectacle? I think it might be, and I wonder whether spiders might win a few more useful friends if more were made of it.

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