Posts Tagged ‘spring’

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.

Early Daffodils

Spotted on a late night walk through the southside of Glasgow, it’s not even February