Posts Tagged ‘wild garlic’

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.


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