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Himalayan Balsam

Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) by Eco Heathen on Flickr (cc) licence

The photo above is not one of mine but was found on Flickr, searching for images under a Creative Commons licence that showed the Himalayan Balsam plant (Impatiens glandulifera). It grows prolifically alonside the small stream I cross on my way to work and, after months of wondering what it was, I got round to identifying it a few weeks ago. Then, at Greenbelt, I went on the wild food forage organised by Earth Abbey and discovered that the seeds are edible, making it a handy wayside snack.

You harvest them by cupping your hand in front of a ripe seed pod and then touching the back so it springs open, projecting out the seeds. The ripe, black ones have a nutty taste (hazelnutty to be precise). The plant is classed as an invasive weed in the UK, particularly infesting riparian areas, so every seed eaten goes a little way to curbing the spread of the plant as well as adding a bit of dietary variety.

If you see some, give it a try. It certainly went down well at the house, where I presented it as a side dish to the dinner I cooked tonight (my first contribution on the cooking side but perhaps that is for another post).

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