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

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

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.


Foraging

Wild Garlic Galore

Yesterday we stumbled across the largest patch of flowering Wild Garlic we have ever seen. We have had a few harvests this year already. Most has gone into pesto which is a firm favourite, or chopped and added to soups, pasta and eggs.

Today we made a delicious wild garlic butter by chopping around 50 grams of leaves and flowers and mixing into a pack of softened butter. I froze half; rolling it into a sausage shape and wrapping in baking paper before popping in the freezer. The rest we will keep in the fridge. We have already enjoyed it spread thickly on doorstep toast and it was such a treat! We also added a scoop into some boiled new potatoes which was delicious too.

What is your favourite way to enjoy wild garlic?