Posts Tagged ‘nettle’

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.

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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.

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.

New Discovery & Old Favourite – Nettle Pesto Recipe

Since first discovering Garlic Mustard / Jack-by-the-Hedge / Alliaria petiolata a couple of weeks ago, I’ve come across loads of tangy specimens on my forages.

Garlic Mustard is easy to spot just now in this part of the world as the small white flowers are coming out. This helps differentiate it from Nettles (that and the lack of sting) which is just about to produce a quite different flower. Above is a particularly tall example of Garlic Mustard, at least a metre, when most that I’ve seen before have been ankle-biters in comparison.

Since I’m on the subject of harvesting, now is just the right time to get picking the young shoots of Nettles – pictured on the right above. These are particularly tasty as the base for nettle pesto.

Nettle Pesto Recipe

Wilt 2 large handfuls Nettle tops for a few minutes in a small amount of boiling water in a covered pot over gentle heat. Strain the nettles – 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.

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

Blend all together using food processor or stick blender.

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

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

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