Foraging

Spring Greens!

Eating seasonally is one of my favourite ways of feeling more aligned with earth’s cycles and come Spring I really start craving fresher, zingier and lighter meals with lots and lots of greens. And just as if Nature intended, our gardens and woodlands are bursting full of Spring greens, that nourish and cleanse our bodies after a heavy winter.

After consciously gardening to keep and enjoy wild edibles over the years, there has been plenty coming up over the past few weeks. They have filled our teapot and topped most of our dishes and both my mind and body are starting to feel lighter and clearer after the long Winter months.

One of our favourite ways to enjoy wild greens is in a pesto. It is simple, quick and delicious. We use it to dress salads, vegetables, pasta and potatoes. We don’t follow a recipe and embrace it varying each time but start by popping a big handful of greens into a blender along with a squeeze of lemon, some seeds (or nuts) a glug of olive oil, salt and pepper and I often add a handful of peas to give a nice freshness and sweetness.

We also add chopped greens to the top of almost any dish, or into soups, salads and pasta dishes.

Some are wonderful enjoyed in a fresh spring tea or cold water infusion. My favourite for this are Cleavers and the Nettles.

As with everything, once you get your eye in, identifying plants becomes almost second nature but it takes time to learn, we are always cautious, avoiding anything unless we are sure – there are poisonous lookalikes out there so cross reference, learn from someone and take your time – it is worth it. We still enjoy adding a few extra plants to our repertoire each year.


Here are just a few greens I use on a regular basis as they are local and abundant to me. They are often an important nectar source in early Spring so we only ever take a small proportion of what is growing leaving lots for the wildlife who depend on them. There are lots of other tasty greens not listed here and getting to know those in your garden is a good place to begin.

Foraging, Trees

Willow

I feel very lucky to have received some wonderful books for my birthday this year, one being ‘Walking with Trees’ by Glennie Kindred (one of my favourite authors and nature connectors).

It has inspired me to form an even deeper connection with some of our lovely native and naturalised trees in Britain and I thought it might be nice to share some of my journeying here, starting with Willow a beloved tree all year round, but particularly special in Spring.


Willows are one of the first trees to grow in Spring, symbolising regeneration, new beginnings and letting go of the old.

There are over 400 species of willow worldwide but the most common to Britain are White Willow, Goat Willow, Crack Willow and Common Osiers or basket willow.

The trees are dioecious meaning they are either male or female, with the striking ‘Pussy Willow’ catkins growing on male Goat willows before the leaves grow. The female flowers develop with the leaves later in the Spring. Both the flowers and leaves are very important nectar and food source for many insects throughout the year.

It is thought that the the words ‘Wicca’ and ‘Witch’ were derived from the word ‘Willow’ and the tree has many ancient associations with healing, rituals and magic.

Traditionally Willow has been used as a pain relief, with the bark containing salicin, from which Aspirin was derived in 1899.

I love using Willow in any rituals connected with the Moon, releasing stuck emotions, old energy, welcoming the new, connecting with our intuition, welcoming Spring, emotional healing and lifting the spirits.

I burn both the bark and leaves, hang up bunches of Willow leaves and collect a few stems in early Spring to put in water and watch the catkins open.

Traditionally willow leaf infusions have been used for sore throats, toothe ache and helping to eliminate toxins from the body. The bark is used in treatments for rheumatism, muscle aches and stiffness and indigestion.


Willow is a wonderful tree to get to know more, growing near water she always offers a seat of peace beneath her branches to soften and watch the world go by. I look forward to walking beside her during the months ahead and sharing some more about her magic!

Foraging

Foraging Resin in the UK

Wild Fen was born out of love and recognition of just how many healing plants we could grow and forage in and around our home in the Fenlands of East Anglia.

Whether it be for medicinal teas, infused oils and balms or making aromatic incense blends, our life long love of nature, evolved into handcrafted creations that celebrated the beauty and magic of the nature around us.

We grow or gather everything that goes into our products and this includes the resin in our incense blends.

Resin is an amazing substance produced by certain trees in response to damage. It has antibacterial properties and acts as a healing plaster that prevents the tree from further damage or infection.

Anyone that has had the pleasure of smelling resin knows it has the most potent scent as well as medicinal properties. It has been gathered and used as incense and medicine for thousands of years.

When gathering resin it is important to take it from the excess areas only, where it has dripped down the tree’s bark and never directly from the wound where it has a vital role in protecting the tree. Always remember that first and foremost, resin is for healing and protecting the tree. Any extra is a blessing.

Resin can be added to a loose incense blend of herbs and barks to increase the burning time of the blend or it can be used on its own, burned on a charcoal disc or used in a resin burner.

We add foraged pine resin to our Botanical Incense Blend and Cedar resin to our brand new Mindful Jars and Cedar Magick Incense Blend.


Foraging

The Intuitive Art of Foraging

It has been an interesting foraging year for us. I have found myself feeling incredibly drawn to collecting certain plants – wild rose early on in the year, mugwort throughout the summer and wild oats as the summer progressed. There have also been other plants that despite their abundance and potential, for one reason or another we didn’t forage many/any this year – elderflower and rosehips stand out as two.

When I first began to discover just how many nutritious and healing plants grow all around us, life became an exciting and busy journey of researching, learning and (sustainably) hunting for plant treasure. Each walk would be an opportunity to gather some free food and medicine and we would spend our evenings experimenting with recipes and ways to preserve our harvest for the months ahead.

In those early years, I sometimes found myself gathering frantically, scared of missing a ripe and abundant patch of something that could have been stored for teas, or made into some healing potion. Experiencing a sense of fear at the thought of having to wait a whole year for its return if I missed a harvest.

What I have learned throughout this journey is that foraging takes time. It isn’t necessarily the finding and gathering of plants that takes too long, although sometimes multiple visits to a plant may be required to harvest it at its peak ripeness. It is the cleaning, preparing, drying and processing of plants in different ways that takes both time, energy and patience. Removing individual berries or flowers from stems, infusing and straining oils and vinegars, sterilising jars and equipment is a real labour of love (and occasionally hate- the sterilising part anyway!)

A life of foraging isn’t one of convenience necessarily. It takes time and the reward is vast. Slowing down and leaning towards a more intuitive way of gathering what we are drawn to maintains my enthusiasm and energy. I feel excitement at the possibilities of next year as I sync more with the pace of nature.

I would love to know if you can relate to the feeling of missing a plant harvest and what you have found yourself drawn to this year?

Foraging

Elderberry Oxymel

On these damp and cloudy days, I feel Autumn’s presence strongly. These days feel just right for concocting healing oxymels for the winter months ahead.

The name oxymel comes from the Greek word ‘oxymeli’ meaning acid and honey. It is a traditional herbal extraction, using a vinegar and honey to extract and preserve the potent goodness from an array of plants, that can then be taken as a medicine.

Not only do you get the goodness of the plants you are infusing, but you also get the healing properties of apple cider vinegar and the honey themselves. I have seen the honey substituted for maple syrup for a vegan recipe too.

Our first oxymel of the year was made with some very early but ripe foraged elderberries. They are packed full of vitamin C and have a wealth of properties that support the immune system, helping ease coughs throughout the winter months. We also teamed our elderberries with anti-viral herbs and spices, including fresh thyme, sage, grated ginger and dried elderflowers, tumeric and cloves, but these could be substituted for what herbs and spices you have available.

We simmered about 3 cups of elderberries with a cup of water and our herbs and spices gently to release the juice from the berries. After around 5 – 10 minutes we strained the juice through a sieve, ensuring that we pressed all of the pulp to get as much juice as possible out of the berries, before allowing it to cool. We then mixed 1 part juice with roughly 1 part raw apple cider vinegar and 1 part raw honey and bottled. The ratio of honey can be adjusted if you would prefer a sweeter taste.


Botanicals, Foraging

Spirit of the South Smudge Sticks

We are currently in the process of converting a van into our very own travelling home. We are around half way through our build now with our kitchen in place and took our very first trip in it a few weeks ago.

Our first stop was a visit to family down on the south coast for a lovely few days together. We then headed out west, further along the Jurassic coast to explore.

The area is steeped in myth and legend and it wasn’t long before I lost myself with so many beautiful wildflowers along the way.

I felt called to create a smudge stick that embodied the magical essence I experienced as I explored the ancient landscapes of the south.

I gathered some flowering wood Sage, that was growing ferociously in a beautiful woodland. Combined with some ancient & magical wildflowers including Yarrow, Red Clover, Mallow flowers and Meadowsweet I wrapped them in a Mullein leaf and finished with flowering heather.

All of the chosen plants are well known in traditional medicine for their healing and supportive energy. This smudge stick is intended to offer a touch of magic, with plants that ground, protect and help you return to yourself. (Please note these limited edition smudge sticks have now sold out.)

*As of 20/08/20 we have changed the name of our sticks to ‘Smoulder sticks.’ You can read more about our decision regarding this here.

Foraging, Wheel of the Year

Lammas Tea Blend

We hope that you have been able to find some time and space to connect with the new season of Lammas – also thought of as high Summer or the birth of Autumn.

One of the ways I like to connect to a new season is by creating a tea blend that seems to hold the energy of the season in the plants that I blend.

In celebration of Lammas and the abundance of edible & medicinal plants available at this time of year, we created this vibrant and flower filled mix that we enjoyed drinking in our garden around a fire last night. It was not only visually pleasing but delicious too!

Botanicals, Foraging

Nutritious Nasturtiums

We were gifted some lovely Nasturtium plants early in the season which we planted up in our herb garden. We are now greeted each morning with a wealth of the most vibrant orange flowers. Nasturtiums have been so easy to grow, requiring very little care. They are an excellent companion plant drawing aphids away from other more delicate plants.

The whole of the Nasturtium plant is edible adding a watercress-like pepperiness to dishes. We have particularly enjoyed topping soups and salads with flowers and leaves.

Nasturtiums have strong antibiotic properties helping to increase resistance to bacterial infections. They are extremely rich in Vitamin C and Iron, Manganese, Flavonoids and Beta Carotene all of which help support a healthy immune system.

Aswell as enjoying them fresh, we have started to gather some leaves and flowers to dry out to use in supportive tea blends throughout the Winter.

Foraging

Nutritious little Nettle Seeds

One of the very many things I love about foraging, is how there are always new plants (or new parts of a plant) to discover and enjoy. One of my favourite discoveries of last year were Nettle seeds! Despite having collected Nettles leaves often for cooking up like spinach or drying out for teas, I hadn’t thought about collecting the seeds, that are abundant on the plant at this time of year.

I first stumbled across an article written by the wonderful herbalist Brigit Anna McNeill highlighting the nutritional benefits of these tiny seeds and the strengthening affect they can have on our adrenal glands and other organs. These seeds hold a wealth of vitamins and minerals just like their leaves, and are very rich in essential fatty acids – nutrition for the skin, hair and brain.

The seeds are ready to harvest when their clusters hang downwards, heavy on their stems rather than sticking up or outright whilst they are still growing. Nettle seeds can be eaten fresh or dry and can be sprinkled on near enough anything, from smoothies, cereal, salads and soups.

Last week, we carefully foraged for some, collecting clumps of the seeds from different nettle plants only where they were in abundance. After leaving them to dry out for a few days, we pushed the clumps of seeds (removed from the main Nettle stem) through a sieve and into a glass jar. This process separates them from their stems, ready to be stored and enjoyed all year round.


Botanicals, Foraging

Wild about Roses

I am never quite sure what draws me in first with Rose; the beauty captured by the eyes or the nose, (don’t worry the poetry stops here my friends). According to fossil evidence, the genus Rosa is thought to be 35 million years old and contains around 200 species and thousands of hybrids growing across the world. Roses have long held a rich symbolism of love and beauty and it is easy to understand why.

The rose plant offers us two key ingredients for our products. In the Spring and Summer we collect and dry the petals to infuse into facial oils, add to face masks, bath salts and teas. In the Autumn and Winter we collect the hips or fruits that we infuse into our skin oils, oxymels and dry for teas. For the rest of this post, I will be focusing on the benefits of the petals as we are currently collecting and processing them, plus rose hips deserve a post of their very own.

Continue reading “Wild about Roses”