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The tell-tale signs of the foraging season are here. You’ll notice that the wild garlic and stinging nettles are starting to pop up everywhere!
This month is also a great time to keep an eye out for Asparagus, Burdock, Cattail shoots, Chickweed, Dandelions, Lamb’s Quarters, Milkweed shoots, Morels, Plantain, Shaggy Mane Mushrooms, Sheep, Sorrel and Wild Violets. It turns out that our beautiful landscapes hold a bounty of wild foods throughout the year. Hunting for them will not have you out and exercising, but spice up some old dishes with delicacies you have picked yourself. Please just make sure you’re doing this on your daily exercise walk and you’re not travelling afield to track down items.
The wild foods growing in the woods, hedgerows, shorelines and forests all around us, whether flower or fauna, can bring a whole new dimension to cooking, and more and that’s why more and more people are keen to have a go.
Of course, there are safety precautions which you must keep in mind – such as only picking things you know are edible and not stripping the land bare of its bounty. But even for the foraging novice, the likes of sweet chestnuts, wild blackberries, wild plums, nettles and rosehips are good starting points and they’ll be in urban and rural hedgerows across the country. Fair warning though, once your start, you won’t be able to stop, and every woodland walk will turn into a foraging adventure, complete with plastic gloves and tupperware box!
In more normal times you can sign up for a foraging excursion to help get you started. We even have some on the BigBarn MarketPlace here and often you’ll find cookery schools offering foraging-themed classes. Or if you fancy trying foraged fare next year (hopefully normality or a degree of it will be restored by then), but don’t want the hassle, search for retailers and producers specialising in foraging goodies – they do all the hard work for you!
If you have already tried your hand at foraging and have a recipe to share, or any other recipe, and would like the chance to win a prize, please video your recipe and add it to KIS (Keep it Simple) Cookery. Please have a look at existing videos here and try and keep your video less than 2 minutes long.
Take a look at this awesome Nettle soup from the Thrifty Cook, Tessa Patterson. A healthy meal that will help you get started on your foraging journey.
Preparation: 15 minutes (plus time for picking the nettles – about 5-10 minutes)
Cook: 30 minutes
At this time of year stinging nettles are growing in abundance. People think of them as nasty weeds yet they can be harvested and made into delicious soup! They taste similar to spinach. Nettles are packed full of vitamins and minerals and include vitamin K as well as vitamins A, C, D and E. They have anti-inflammatory properties and are effective in the treatment of hay fever and asthma, so I believe. The other brilliant thing about nettles is that they’re free! Do have a go at making this, I make it every spring and it tastes absolutely delicious. When harvesting nettles, just snip off the tops of the plants so that you have the tips and a few new leaves. Please make sure you wear gardening or thick rubber gloves!
6 oz/150g (approx.) of young nettle leaves
1 large potato
2 garlic cloves
2 pints/1 litre/4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 oz/25g butter
Crème fraîche to serve (optional)
1 tbsp snipped chives to serve (optional)
Salt and black pepper
Shake each nettle top when picking to get rid of the bugs! Wash the nettles in plenty of cold water then change the water and wash again until there are no traces of soil or little insects. Place in a colander to drain.
Peel and slice the onion. Mince the garlic clove. Peel and chop the potato into ½”/1.25cm pieces.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onions and cook gently, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes until softened.
Add the garlic and potatoes and cook for another minute.
Add the stock and wait for everything to come to a simmer, then add the nettles. Push them down well with a wooden spoon and stir.
Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer, covered for about 20 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the potatoes are soft.
Take the pan off the heat and either mash with a potato masher, whizz with a hand blender or liquidize until smooth.
Pour into soup bowls, add a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with chives. Delicious!