Chances are you’ll have seen this common wild hedgerow and woodland edge plant about. In April, its ghostly phallic flower sheath of white about a long pollinating part, giving off a whiff of urine to attract flies. In autumn bright orange red berries bunched on a stem. ‘Maculatum’ means ‘spotted’ as its shiny deep green leaves are dappled with dark flecks, and spotted things are often natures way of saying ‘hands off!
Cuckoopint, or Lords and Ladies plant, is no exception as it is fairly poisonous. The chemical responsible is calcium oxalate which produces an effect like glassy needles sticking into the mouth. So why is it included here in a forager’s list, you say?
Well if you ever find yourself in a survival situation (or are just damn curious) the tubers (roots) contain 25% starch so are a good source of energy. The trick is that you have to make VERY sure they are completely cooked through as this destroys the oxalate crystals.
This can be by boiling, roasting, or drying apparently, though personally id rather cook it and be sure. Ground to a powder it can be used to make a drink called ‘salep’ which was popular in England in the middle ages and the 17th/18th century. Ground arum or orchid root mixed with milk, rose or orange water, sugar and cinnamon. This is a popular drink in Turkey but there it is made of wild orchid roots (genus Orchis).
It can also be used to make a pudding and an ice cream, so im quite tempted to try making the pudding, but now ive got a 14 month old son to consider I cant be quite as risque as i used to be so this particular pleasure might have to wait…has anyone else out there tried it and was it worth the cold sweat?