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

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

Helping Hands Salve

On a beautiful day a few weeks ago, we foraged a bounty of delicious dandelion flowers, rich with colour and healing properties. We also collected some fresh nettles and wanted to use them both in something special. These abundant plants are considered to have numerous beneficial properties for nourishing and protecting the skin. Full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, offering antibacterial and anti inflammatory action. They felt like the perfect plants to create a healing hand salve, especially for sore, over-washed hands. We also added some of our homegrown dried organic lavender for a gentle scent and extra healing.

We wanted to create an offering that we could give to loved ones, many who are key workers and who have been suffering with sore hands due to all the extra washing during the pandemic. We will be concocting another small batch of balms in the coming days so keep an eye out if you would like one.

Botanicals, Foraging

In Celebration of the humble Nettle

As a forager and lover of wild food, I think Nettles are up there as one of the most nutritious and versatile additions to any diet. They are perhaps one of the easiest plants to identify and their abundance and long season means that they are often visible everywhere from gardens to woodlands.

Nettles are especially rich in Iron and vitamins A & C and offer cleansing and detoxing properties. Not only do they benefit our diets, they also provide nourishment to our hair and skin when added to natural products.

We tend to use Nettles in much the same ways as we would use Spinach – in curries, soups, smoothies and juices. As soon as Nettles are heated, dried or blended they lose their sting but they do require a fair bit of caution when handling before hand! They make a wonderful tea using either fresh or dried leaves and can also be steeped overnight for a wonderful cleansing and iron rich morning tonic.

It is always a good idea to do some of your own research before foraging and make sure you are prepared. A good introduction to Nettles can be found here, and you can read more information about the foraging code of conduct here.