Posts Tagged ‘free food’

Spring Elderflower Vinegars / Shrubs

The first Scottish Radical Herbal Gathering is in September – tickets on sale in July. We recently got talking about the important entertainments aspect of the Gathering and wanted to make sure there will be some tasty forageables for the non-alcoholic attendees – we have a lot of options for wild alcohol… As I have a lot of Elderflower Recipes of the boozy and non-boozy varieties and, one of my favourites, Elderberry Vinegar, I thought, why not combine the two and look in to some Elderflower Vinegars?

Today, I managed to collect a good stash of Elderflower heads – unexpected bonus of the cooler weather is that I only brought one greenfly in to the flat and its sensitive pre-allotment seedlings on the windowsill. When you’re picking Elderflower heads it should ideally be early on a sunny day, so that you get maximum pollen before the insects get to it. In reality, you can pick later in the day, just give the flowers a good sniff to check they’re fragrant – this can vary a bit from tree to tree as well. A few points on picking, like all foraging, Elderflower picking is best done sustainably and respectfully, leaving plenty behind for the plant and other species’ who rely on it to survive. Respectful foraging also often means securing the main plant with one hand as you pick with the other – petals like Rose  and very ripe berries are probably the main exceptions. You should also try to remove the plant material cleanly and from a growth point to prevent dead material being left on the plant and potentially creating an easy environment for deseases. When I got home, I discovered that getting Elderflowers off of their stalks with a fork is a tad more labour intensive than getting Elderberries – which you can freeze and then they pop off. I recommend a good, long radio programme for when you have a go with these recipes.

I’ve used two recipes – one with sugar from the outset from JamJarShop and another with no sweeteners (yet) from GreatFoodClub They both take 2 to 3 weeks to infuse, after which I’ll strain them and then use the vinegar to make refreshing shrubs, diluted with soda water.I’m sure there’ll be some left for the Gathering in September.

Sugar-Free Recipe

  1. Sterilise a large jar – I used a Kilner which was just under 1L.
  2. I picked 15 elderflower heads for 900ml white wine vinegar.
  3. Pick the flowers and place in the jar, covering with the vinegar.
  4. Seal, and place on a sunny windowsill for 2-3 weeks.
  5. Strain through muslin and decant vinegar into bottles.
  6. Store in a dry, dark cupboard.

Sugary Recipe

Follow the steps above with slightly different ingredients, for a roughly 1L jar, I used:

18 elderflower heads /  450g caster sugar / zest of 1 orange / 650ml apple cider vinegar

 

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March 2014 Herb Foraging

We had a wonderful walk last Sunday in Queen’s Park, south Glasgow. It was a wee bit overcast and very windy in places, but we did have a gorgeous Cairn Terrier called Poppy to keep us amused. So, after a warming cuppa in the Glad Cafe, we set off towards the park.

Our first find was Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) – great for fevers and especially migraines – there are just a few leaves visible just now and you can still smell the strong, medicinal aroma of parthenolides. One leaf per day – ideally with some bread, the leaf can cause blisters if eaten alone – will prevent migraine by dilating the blood vessels in the head, essential plant medicine. Then, to the Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) – hiding their bright yellow flowers without the sun, but still sweet and aromatic in the stem. The flowers come out before the leaves, unusual in plants and leading to folk names like Son before the Father. Coltsfoot is an excellent cough remedy and can be made in to a tea, syrup or tincture, the stems can be candied and sucked for a sore, cough-irritated throat.

Up on the hill, we found the start of the Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) – a sour, lemony tang to the leaf, especially if torn against the grain. Highlanders call this Juicy Leaves and it is used around the world, particularly in former French colonies, for soup and sauces for fish. We also found a good display of Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) – another great throat medicine, Plantain’s dual action of tightening and soothing mucous membranes and exposed surfaces makes it a great plaster for cuts (chew your own) and also for sneezes, especially of the allergic type. Maxime managed to spot a small grove of Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in leaf. The trees are slow to wake up, but you will find some very abundant hedges as strimming promotes early growth, although it does prevent flowering as Hawthorn flowers on 2nd year growth – less of this if you cut the year before. We spotted a couple of Hawthorn berries holding on from the Autumn – these are past medicinal or culinary use, but can still be good food for birds and probably squirrels. Hawthorn leaves are tasty in sandwiches and make a suprisingly substantial snack – their old name Bread and Cheese may refer to the rich texture or mouth-feel, rather than taste.

We stomped around the windy hill, spotting the variegated leaves of Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon) – a Mint or Deadnettle with pretty yellow flowers which can be used in salads. Beside the flag pole we found a flourishing green medicine chest – Nettle, Garlic Mustard, Ground Elder, Cleavers – all great for Spring Detox juicing, soups and pesto. We also found the Queen’s Park Wild Garlic Patch – probably planted by a keen allotmonteer and just budding with the first pungent flowers.

A little bit wind-worn, we wandered back down the hill towards Locavore, spotting a tub of Chickweed (Stellaria media) in the street. At Locavore we cooked up some Nettle and Wild Garlic pesto and sampled some 4 Thieves’ Vinegar I’d made earlier with Wild Garlic leaves instead of the traditional Garlic cloves. We also tried some very mustardy Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis) – deceptively delicate pale-purple flowers with quite a punch.

A great lunch and time to chat and share ideas for future walks – thanks for coming and for the photos and see you at the end of April.

Autumn Recipes: Hedgerow Jelly

September is only just upon us and in Glasgow it feels resolutely autumnal already. A quick walk in the park today turned up plenty of Rowan, ripening Hawthorn and Bramble and some fantastic polypore mushrooms (great cooked with garlic on toast). I also finally found my local Yarrow supply which has been hiding all year and is just perfect to dry right now – fully in flower with great, fluffy-spiked leaves.Autumn FruitsAs it’s a Sunday, it was the ideal time for a trip to the country park and Finlaystone was full of stinky herbal delights – Figwort and Wood Betony were both in acrid abundance. I also added a large haul of windfall apples from a secret location off the Hillington industrial estate – thankfully my kind runner friends keep a look-out for interesting trees whilst they’re pacing the pavements and pointed me in the right direction.

One down side is that the Elderberries are taking their time this year – I managed to snaffle about a dozen berries on my way back from the shops, but the rest have a good couple of weeks before they’re ready. In the meantime, a very vague Autumnal recipe to use now or at least soon…

Hedgerow Jelly

Stuff you find in hedges, in a condiment – it’s important to get plenty of pectin in to set the jelly so make sure to have loads of crab apples, about the same weight as the total of the rest of your hedgerow fruits.

First of all, collect some rosehips, brambles, rowan berries, plums (other recipes says sloes, you are mad to use the rare Glasgow sloes for anything other than gin) and plenty of crab apples.

  •     Chop everything up a bit and put it in a pan with just enough water to cover the fruit
  •     Simmer until it’s a juicy mess
  •     Strain through a jelly bag and leave overnight
  •     Put the juice in a pan and heat
  •     When hot, add sugar (500g for every 600ml of juice), dissolve and keep heating
  •     Boil until it sets – test for this after 10 minutes, then at 5 minute intervals
  •     Pour in to sterilised containers

Eat during the year with meat, cheese and in sandwiches.

Things to consider:

  •    You can use cooking apples instead of crab apples
  •    If you squeeze the jelly bag too much the final result will be cloudy, but there will be more of it.
  •    The easiest way to find the “setting point” is to pour a little bit of the mixture on to a fridge-cold plate or saucer. Then let it cool and push your finger through – if the surface wrinkles, you are at the setting point. If not, keep boiling for another 5 minutes and try again.

I can also heartily recommend the Haw-Sin sauce recipe to use your Hawthorn berries when they ripen.

 

Summer Beer Forage

Another sunny day in the south of Glasgow and a brave dozen set off to Queen’s Park for a Sunday afternoon forage. We started the walk at Locavore‘s new shop on Nithsdale Road and a little home-made Elderflower champagne.

One of our first encounters was with the wonderful Lime (Tilia x europoea) – a tree whose sweet, mucilagenous buds and flowers make a quick walking nibble and a tea to relax and ease anxiety. Limeflowers have a short season and we spotted only a couple out in full bloom. Once they do pop it is said that you can hear a Lime tree before you see it, due to the volume of buzzing insects feeding on the nectar. The Lime tree is also a friend to parents, apparently “fractious” children can be left under the tree for a wee calm down.

Around the pond we found some Watermint – in the running for a future beer but stronger smelling than it tastes – and lots of Plantain (Plantago spp). Plantain is a great healing plant and extremely widespread. The two main species are Broadleaf (Plantago major) and Ribwort (Plantago lanceolata). I tend to use the two interchangeably for the handily combined action – both soothing and tightening – useful for wound healing when used externally and for sinus problems and allergies as a tea. Both varieties have a distinctive horizontal ribbing on the back of their leaves – making them distinguishable from other, similar, scrubby-green-leafy-things. We saw some massive Broadleaf specimens – certainly dinner-plate size, although they can be small enough to confuse with Daisy leaves. The Ribwort has lance-shaped leaves and a central spike which looks like a reed and the flowers have a pleasant, mushroomy taste.

Queen’s Park has a small but vigourous patch of Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) which was our main beer-related option. According to our brewer Declan from Clockwork Beer company, Meadowsweet was used in the past in Scotland instead of Hops – as these are native to the south of England. I wonder if this explains the large amounts of Meadowsweet outside the Tennent’s Brewery near Glasgow Green? Medicinally, Meadowsweet contains salicylates – also found in Aspirin – which account for its pain-killing properties. Meadowsweet is also regularly used as an anti-acid for heartburn. This dual action is a great illustration of the complementary character of whole plant medicines – the isolated compound as used in Aspirin can cause acid problems, whereas the whole plant protects against them.

Along the way we also found some great nibbles in Sorrel leaves and Red Clover flowers and some yet to come in ripening Hawthorn and Sloe berries. We rounded off the walk with some Nettle beers at Clockwork and ideas to create the next foraged beer.

Elderflower Champagne Recipe

The Elder tree is in flower from June and a few heads of flowers will make 8 bottles of champagne.

Natural yeasts in the Elderflower ferment to create a potent and fizzy brew.

Elderflower Champagne Recipe

15 Elderflower heads: collected on a dry morning for maximum pollen – before the insects get it all

4 Lemons: peel and juice

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

700g sugar dissolved in 4l warm water

Additional 2l cold water

Elderflower Champagne June 2013

Combine all of the above ingredients in a large bucket, cover

Check the brew after 2 days – if it isn’t obviously fermenting – add a sprinkle of yeastElderflower Balloons

Leave to brew for another 5 days

Strain the liquid into clean bottles

Use a balloon to seal each bottle instead of the cap

Check the balloons every day and let out any gas

Seal the bottles with their caps when no more gas is escaping – it’s now ready to drink

 

VARIATION: Pink Elderflower Champagne: use Red Elderflowers and substitute the lemons with 2 Pink Grapefruits

Elderflower Red IngredientsElderflower Red and Clare

Spring Herb Recipes

Some quick recipes as Spring will come eventually… These are begged, borrowed and stolen from all over the place – including earlier in this blog and I’m pretty sure from the inimitable Richard Mabey’s Food for Free. I’ve tried them all out many times and they work consistently. Who knows where the originals came from many moons ago –  apologies in advance to anyone who sees one of these as their own – greatest form of flattery, etc, etc.

I will be using these recipes and others as part of my indoctrination of members of the public in to the wonderful world of Spring Cleansing Herbs on Thursday 4th April at Woodland Herbs in Glasgow – though the juicing may be a challenge if the plants don’t get much juicier in this cold weather.

Nettle Pesto

Wilt 2 large handfuls Nettle tops for a few minutes in a small amount of boiling water in a covered pot over gentle heat. Quickly strain the nettles to retain their flavour – reserving the water to drink warm later.

Lightly toast a scant handful of pine nuts (about 50g) in a dry pan. Remove and place in a large bowl / food processor with 50g grated parmesan, juice of half a lemon and the wilted Nettles.

Blend all together using food processor or stick blender.

For garlic you can add 2/3 cloves crushed garlic or 4-6 finely chopped leaves of Wild Garlic or a small handful of finely chopped leaves of Garlic Mustard.

Add salt and pepper to taste and olive oil to get your preferred consistency.

Use in pasta, on salads, with cheese on toast…

Don’t forget to drink the nettle water – it’s very rich in minerals.

Variation: Wild Garlic Pesto – instead of Nettles, use lots of Wild Garlic and more oil – chop everything finely rather than using a blender

 

Spring Green Salad

Salad Dressing: 1 part Vinegar; 2 parts Oil; salt & pepper to taste

Herb Oil: add aromatic herbs – Rosemary / Thyme – to oil; warm in bain marie for 2 hours or leave on sunny windowsill for 2 weeks; strain and retain liquid

     Garlic Vinegar: combine Garlic and aromatic herbs with Cider Vinegar; leave to soak for 2 weeks in a covered container; strain and retain liquid

Mix dressing and add to assorted spring greens: Dandelion leaf; Hawthorn tops; Chickweed

Variation: Hawthorn & Beetroot salad – combine Hawthorn tops and chopped pre-cooked Beetroot, drizzle with salad dressing

 

Nettle Soup

Cook 1 chopped onion in a little oil, add 2 large handfuls of Nettle tops; 1 litre of stock; 1 chopped potato and 1 chopped carrot, simmer until potato is cooked (15-20mins). Blend soup, season with salt & pepper and finish with crème fraiche.

Wild Garlic

Perfectly ready to pick and eat, best before the flowers come out and found around the corner in Shawlands, Glasgow:

Wild Garlic for flavour & pungency * Nettle for flavour & nutrients

Sweet Potato because it was left-over in the fridge