I have let the wildfood of the month series lapse a bit, but as we are still holed up indoors due to the unusually cold weather I may as well do another one of them that I had originally planned for last year but kind of missed the window: Navel Wort (umbilicus rupestris), also known as penny-pies or wall pennywort.
This photo was taken in April last year, which really is already a little late in the season for this delicious herb When they turn reddish like this they get a slightly unpleasant bitter taste. They grow mainly on rough stone walls and are quite abundant around here even as early as January. There were lots of them around before our current coldsnap, but now they have disappeared on most but the sunniest walls.
They are thick, succulent leaves about the size of a large coin and the shape of a human navel (hence the name) Here a better idea of the size of them:
You pick them off the wall and just pop them in your mouth, just like that, and they have the most refreshing crunching juicyness to them. If you've been walking for a bit and have run out of water, just a pop a few of these for an instant revitaliser. If you find quite a few of them, and never graze them bare, take them home and pop them into a salad or I could imagine them added to an energising vegetable juice.
Not only are these things tasty, they are also good for you. Culpeper used to call it 'kidneywort' because of it's beneficial influence on the waterworks in general and the kidney in particular. The juice applied externally is said to combat acne if you have any teenagers suffering from that ailment. It generally has a cooling effect on anything it is applied to, both internally and externally. I imagine it would help relieve insect bites, but alas it's not available when insects are around...
I have no doubt there are other benefits, but best of all it's really tasty and free!