Foraging for wild food growing freely in nature is one of the most rewarding and fun activities. Gathering wild plants for the table that are free is something that allows one to both connect with nature and realize that there are a lot of plants growing out there that are both edible and delicious. As well as allowing us to eat both locally and seasonally, foraging allows us to slow down and connect and tune into the environment.
When foraging there are 4 different natural foods for us to pick: foliage, flora, fruits & fungi depending on the season. However when foraging it is extremely important to pick both responsibly and sustainably, taking only what you need for your own consumption. It’s not wise to totally deplete and annihilate nature’s treasure trove.
Introduction: Reconnecting with Nature through Foraging
There are many different plants growing out there that are in fact edible, some of these you may not have heard of, here are but just are few edible plants that can be easily found and eaten; Pink Sorrel, Wood Sorrel, Yarrow, Wild Chervil, Ground Elder, Mugwort, Daisy’s, Columbine, Watercress, Sweet Chestnuts, Lady’s Smock, Silver Birch, Hedge Garlic, Fat Hen, Rock Samphire, Hazelnuts, Wild Strawberry, Blackthorn (Sloe), Crab Apple & Dead Nettles just to list a few. Foraging is for everyone and is a lovely way for families to connect together in Mother Nature while contributing to the family table.
Whilst I was foraging for Wild Garlic the other day it really allowed me to submerge myself into the woods as I experienced the joys of the Spring while I listened to the birds and noticed all the new young plants shooting up amongst the intoxicating fragrance of the young Wild Garlic plants. But as a word of caution, it is a really good idea to familiarize oneself with the plants before picking, just in case you pick something that is in fact poisonous! There is a wonderful mobile phone App available that can help you to identify plants that you are unsure of and avoid picking something that is highly toxic. One does have to be mindful when picking plants you are unfamiliar with because if a plant is poisonous you may experience a very negative reaction. A client of mine a couple of years ago booked a Tera-Mai™ energy healing treatment, I had no idea the purpose of this treatment but when she arrived the reason was apparent as she was presenting with a severe eye infection. The moment I started the treatment I was given a direct spiritual message for this lady …. the message asked her what she had put into her mouth! Her expression said it all …. she had gone for a lovely country walk, whilst coming across an interesting looking leaf for some unknown reason she decided to sample this leaf to see how it tasted. Big mistake as she was soon to discover ….. sometimes our curiosity gets the better of us, but when foraging it is imperative to be mindful as to what we are picking for our consumption. My client’s eye did get better after her treatment, but only after a huge lesson had been learnt.
Spring Foraging Essentials: Wild Garlic and Stinging Nettles
As we move into the warmer days of Spring, after the short dark dormant months of Winter foraging for Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) and Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) are both wonderful naturally grown foods that are abundant to harvest at this time of the year. As we move into celebrating the Spring and rebirth of Mother Nature, there is no greater experience to celebrate the joys of Spring than getting out there and picking wild organic food for the table. It’s not just the process of the actual gathering, but also the knowing that these wild free growing plants can in fact feed, nourish, and contribute to our general well-being and health.
Wild Garlic is one of my very favorite plants to gather, it grows profusely in moist woodland areas close to water, preferring slightly acidic conditions. This wonderful plant has some very useful medicinal properties such as helping with cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive issues. It can also have sterilization attributes for wounds. This plant is extremely versatile; it can be used raw in a salad, simply as a herb, cooked as a vegetable, or used in a soup. My personal preference is to make this wonderful leaf into a pesto, which I make in bulk, and then add different roasted pureed nuts such as roasted pine nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecan nuts to each, to create an assortment of variations. Once I have prepared my basic pesto I either freeze or pickle it in glass storage bottles.
I do have one bit of advice should you wish to make your pesto using walnuts or pecan nuts make sure that you give them a really good soaking, wash them off, and dry them out before using them as otherwise they can be poisonous as they carry large quantities of Juglone which can carry toxic reactions to the human body.
Garlic butter is another option. By simply liquidizing a few leaves with some butter to be used in cooking as a flavorsome additive to dishes or simply as delicious garlic bread.
Easy Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe
Below is my simple Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe
After foraging my Wild Garlic I give it a really good wash, I don’t use the flowers for my pesto. My basic recipe is very simple, but you will require either a food processor or a blender to make it.
100g or 3 1/2 Wild Garlic Leaves
40g – 1 1/2 oz blanched hazelnuts/walnuts, pecan nuts, or pine nuts
6 tbsp Virgin Olive Oil
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (approx. 1 1/2 lemons)
*The zest of the lemons can be added to give a more enriched flavor
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
Freshly grated black pepper
Salt if required
Preparation Time: less than 30 minutes
Cooking Time: None
- Blend the wild garlic, the nuts of your choice, the olive oil, and lemon juice in either a food processor or food blender until the pesto is a rough consistency.
- Add the freshly grated parmesan cheese – blend into the wild garlic/nut mixture and season with freshly ground pepper, you may find that adding salt is not necessary.
- You may then transfer it into a sterilized glass storage jar and add a layer of oil to help your pesto keep fresh or place it in a container suitable for freezing.
Wild Garlic Pesto makes the most delicious pesto, but it can also be delicious spread on toast.
Diving into the World of Nettles: Foraging, Medicinal Benefits, and Uses
Foraging for nettles in the Spring can also be equally rewarding…..
Stinging Nettles are perennial flowering plants that grow throughout the British Isles and are found in woodlands, hedgerows, gardens, and any ground which has not been disturbed.
Stinging nettles carry many medicinal benefits and have been used as far back as medieval times. The stinging nettle has antioxidant properties and can be used to help treat a variety of many physical complaints, such as treating arthritis, eczema, gout, painful muscles, and joints. This common plant can also be used to help with urinary infections and the early signs of an enlarged prostate. Other valuable benefits of this common magical plant are: relieving hay fever, insect bites, helps with kidney stones, and flushing out the gallbladder and liver, it can also help to reduce water retention and stimulate hair growth. Nettles also have the ability to loosen stubborn phlegm with chest infections as well as help to reduce blood sugar levels.
Stinging Nettles can be consumed in many forms, such as teas or juice, ointments for skin rashes, dried leaves, and my very favorite in the form of a delicious soup, excellent for a digestive detox. Making Nettle Soup is very easy and a wonderful way of having a Spring detox as we emerge from our Winter hibernation and become more active, moving into the warmer months.
I must however stress that It is important how we handle stinging nettles, this should be done with great care as the tiny barbs or hairs on the stems and leaves can sting and irritate the skin. Stinging nettles contain a number of chemicals, such as serotonin, acetylcholine, and histamine. It is important not to scratch the afflicted area after being stung as it will just aggravate the skin further. Reactions can be quite uncomfortable such as redness, numbness, stinging, and itching. If one rubs the juice of a Dock leaf (Rumex spp.) onto the skin of the stung area this will help to reduce the discomfort of the sting. Dock leaves are usually found growing close by to stinging nettles, so Mother Nature is very clever in the way she organizes herself!
With the above in mind, I always make sure that I am properly armed with a thick pair of gloves for protection, a good pair of scissors to cut the young tender nettle leaves, and a large bag to collect my foraged leaves in.
Nettles are best when very tender, so picking them early in the spring is preferable and certainly before they start to flower.
I am always mindful not to pick nettles growing close to a public footpath where dog walkers may take their dogs. After collecting my bag of nettles I will take them home and give them a thoroughly good wash, removing all insects. I do this before setting about preparing my nettle soup full of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. Making Nettle Pesto is another option and is seriously delicious on toast.
My Nettle Soup Recipe – A Soup Fit For A Goddess!
1/2 bag of fresh young nettle tops
1 Tablespoon Virgin Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Butter
1 Red Onion
2 x Garlic Cloves (optional)
Sprig of Thyme
4 Cups of Vegetable or Chicken Stock
1/2 Cup chopped Celery
1 lb / .45kg Potatoes
Preparation: 30 minutes.
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil to blanch your nettles in.
- After thoroughly washing your stinging nettles, wearing protective rubber gloves place your nettle tops into the boiling water for 2 minutes.
- Use tongs to remove the wilted nettles from your pot and place them into a bowl of ice-cold water, thereafter strain them into a colander.
- blanching your nettles will remove their sting, making it easier to remove any large tough stems. You should have 3-4 cups of tender blanched nettle tops for your soup.
- Saute the chopped shallots and celery in a large soup pot until soft.
- Add the peeled chopped potatoes, stock, thyme, bay leaf, and time. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Chop the blanched nettles, add to the soup, and simmer until fully cooked.
- When fully cooked liquidize, season, and add either cream or cream fresh before serving.
There are many wild plants out there that are both edible and nutritious, often completely overlooked simply through ignorance. In this ever-growing fast world of technology and online shopping, it is really important that we don’t lose that natural gift of harvesting Nature’s treasure trove as we give ourselves the opportunity of taking out some quality time and feeding both our bodies and souls in the Garden of Eden.