Spring is a wonderful time of the year with new growth and the promise of the Summer to come.
Foraging is a wonderful way of connecting with nature while enjoying the bountiful foods there are out there, practically right on our doorstep. Here we take you on our foraging journey of the last few weeks and show you how a few simple wild plants can create wonderful recipes and ingredients for your kitchen.
As well as in cooking nettles are also used for traditional medicine, beer, teas, textiles, cosmetics and cordials. They are highly nutritious with up to 25% protein (when dry), vitamins A, B5, B12
, C, E and K, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Once you start googling about the nutritious benefits of Stinging Nettles it is astounding how much information and recipes out there, here is just one example 13 Amazing benefits of Stinging Nettles. They have a mild flavour and taste like spinach and cucumber so they can be used instead many recipes like soups, stews or pasta. Soaking in water or any form of heat will destroy the stinging hairs, they contain more nutrients the less you cook them so just a few minutes will do. Or better still make crisps! Dry in a very low oven for a few hours or put them in your dehydrator if you have one. Sprinkle with paprika if you like.
To forage wear gloves and pick the first top four leaves until they begin to flower, they then begin to have a diuretic effect. They are cut and come again so you can keep your patch going by cutting them and harvesting the new shoots.
Closely related to the usual garlic bulbs used in cooking and onions, Allium ursinum is also known as ramp, beers garlic, ramson, broad leaved garlic and wood garlic although our spring onions are quite different. Being part of the Allium family it is particularly helpful for the immune system and has been used for centuries as a remedy for colds and flu type conditions.
The whole plant can be used, the leaves have a fairly mild garlic flavour, the flowers are quite strong when closed, when open they are hotter still but look amazing in salads. The green seed pods are really strong, use with caution! Avoid the seeds once they have turned black.
They grow in woodlands, near streams, banks of roads in damp conditions and often in shade. When foraging avoid picking in clumps as it often grows near the poisonous lords and ladies, which when young looks familiar so be selective and ensure it smells of garlic.
You can add wild garlic to any recipe instead of or as well as garlic bulbs. It makes an amazing soup with nettles, hummus, pesto, pasta, polenta etc. You can use it raw in salads or cooked in recipes. And as well as wild garlic flowers did you know you can also eat primrose flowers! They have a slightly sweet flavour and make salads look amazing.
To make a soup with your foraged gains use a basic recipe, for example: Chop and fry an onion, add stock, any vegetables, wild garlic and nettles. Season and cook for 10 minutes. Blitz with hand blender if you wish, add cooked beans if you like some texture. It really is as simple as that!
Wild garlic hummus is lovely, dip with bread, vegetables or tortilla crisps or use as a side salad. You'll find the recipe here.
Wild garlic can be a wonderful accompaniment to any risotto, just add five minutes before the end of cooking for a fresh garlic flavour.
We make huge amounts of wild garlic pesto every Spring. Some goes in jars and some goes in ice cube trays and frozen to be used throughout the year. You can find the recipe from BBC Goodfood here.
There is so much to learn once you get into foraging and there are lots of experienced people out there teaching workshops and courses, locally Paulo Jesus of Cat-in-Trug who can be found on facebook. Here are just a few simple and safe ideas to get you started right away, a new productive project for all the family, adding interest on your daily walks at the same time.