The Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) starts to wake up in April and May, and this means one of my favourite wild vegetables of the year - Hogweed shoots! You're looking for the delicious unfurled shoots growing in the centre of the plant (note - if you're new to foraging from the Carrot or Apiaceae family take care and do your research. This family contains some
deadly toxic species - though Hogweed is quite distinctive from deadly species including Hemlock and Hemlock Water Dropwort). Another important point - when harvesting Hogweed, wear gloves, particularly if there is bright sunlight. Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is perhaps better known for causing photosensitive burns (and it is indeed more dangerous - so you do need to learn to distinguish this from Common Hogweed - see images below), but Common Hogweed can cause burns too if harvested in sunlight - this has happened to me and took weeks to heal up!
The shoots are delicious steamed and served with melted butter and lemon zest. Or try sauteeing them to serve with your poached eggs in the morning (you can even use them in place of soldiers for dippy eggs). In fact, you can use Hogweed shoots in any way you might use Asparagus - and Hogweed is every bit as tasty (more tasty, I would argue!).
Common Hogweed Giant Hogweed - DO NOT TOUCH
HOGWEED TEMPURA WITH SOY, GINGER AND SESAME DIPPING SAUCE
Good handful of Hogweed shoots
1 cup plain flour
1 cup water
1 large egg
Ice cubes (to chill water with)
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Soy sauce (3 tbsp)
Grated ginger (up to a tbsp, to taste)
Sesame oil (2 tbsp)
Mirin (1 tbsp)
Sliced red chilli (optional, to taste)
1 Wash and towel dry the Hogweed shoots
2 Sift the flour into a bowl
3 Chill water by placing ice in it for a few moments
4 Beat the egg
5 Strain ice cubes from water, add water to the beaten egg and whisk lightly
6 Add flour to egg and water mix and stir with chopsticks until lightly mixed
7 Heat oil in a wok on medium high heat
8 Dip Hogweed shoots in tempura batter and carefully lower into the hot oil. When lightly golden, drain on kitchen paper
9 To make the dipping sauce combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin and grated ginger, and add slices of fresh red chilli if desired.
10 Serve with a wildflower salad (or salad of your choice) and enjoy!