Category Archives: Flowers

Foraging at Settle Stories

We have a fabulous Settle Stories Festival every year and on April 2nd I am doing a free foraging walk and talk in and around Settle Quaker Meeting House. April is a bit early for huge amounts of wild food but I will talk about some common edible plants and point out some foraging spots in central Settle.

Field of chives

There will be wild food samples too.. nettle bhajis, pesto and more!
If you would like to come please book online via the Settle Stories website

Help me out – short survey about wild food

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garden forager

The Garden Forager

The Garden Forager: Edible Delights in your Own Back Yard by Adele Nozedar is a great new addition to the growing number of wild food books. I have mentioned her Hedgerow Handbook in my blog about wild food books and this follows the same format.

Some may say this is not ‘proper’ foraging but these plants are freely available in many gardens and parks so that is fine by me! The plants in The Garden Forager really are the sort of thing that will be familiar to many people.

Common flowers like lavender, calendula, fuschia, lilac and dahlia feature in here as well as many shrubs and ornamental plants. Over 40 plants are mentioned in all including sedum, pyracantha, berberis, hosta, Japanese quince and many more.

The thing I love most about these books is the beautiful pictures by Lizzie Harper. Each one is hand drawn in black and white and then key identifying features are highlighted in colour. This makes it easy to identify things with confidence and each plant has at least one, and often several, recipes for you to try.

If you are new to foraging and want to find wild food close to home this is a great book to start with.

I quite understand many people have issues with Amazon and prefer to shop elsewhere. If so, have a look at Alibris which is like Amazon but nicer and full of independent booksellers.

Andy Hamilton Wild Booze

Wild Booze

Writer and forager Andy Hamilton talks about Wild Booze in this BBC Food Programme on Radio 4 and leads a journey hunting for plants to make incredible drinks, and encourages us to looks again at the wild world all around us.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b044bckf

Andy Hamilton is a keen forager and maker of wild booze. See more about him on his website The Other Andy Hamilton. His book Booze for Free is brilliant and full of simple (and mainly alcoholic) recipes to try.

One of his alcohol free  recipes which I do make often is a sticky willy tonic.. recipe on Forage Kent blog

P1020984Pic from Forage Kent blog

Inspired by Andy’s walks? Try making your own wild drinks with recipes from the BBC Food website: Elderflower cordial, Sloe Gin & Greengage Smash.

Or have a look at the book page for some book suggestions on brewing with herbs and foraged goodies.

gorse flowers

Gorse Flowers

The bright yellow flowers of gorse bushes are very distinctive and easy to identify. You may not realise the flowers are edible and used in a range of edible or medicinal recipes. The gorse is evergreen and flowers pretty much all year but flowers have the strongest flavour in springtime. The latin name for gorse is Ulex europaeus.

The flowers are edible but .. beware.. gorse has big thorns so wear thick gloves and be very careful when picking!

I took this picture on the Anglesey coast in mid-November.

gorse flowersGorse flowers have a very slight flavour of coconut and make a lovely wine or cordial. If you want to have a go at making  your own cordial there is a simple gorse cordial recipe on the Eat Weeds website.

Some of you may know that Gorse is one of the Bach Flower Remedies and it is used for hopelessness and despair. It can be especially helpful when someone has been ill for some time and they feel there is no hope of recovery. Gorse helps to see things from a different perspective and gives hope for a more positive outcome.

 

aconite

Poison garden and dangerous plants

Several old monasteries and castles have medicinal or poison gardens and one of the most famous is at Alnwick Castle better known as the location for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.

Poison Garden is a fantastic website from John Robertson the former Poison Garden Warden at Alnwick. It includes a vast amount of information, much of it gleaned while he was researching plants to be planted in the garden there.

Whilst many wild plants and flowers are edible some are extremely poisonous. Aconite in the picture above is also known as monkshood and is very toxic – it has very pretty purple flowers and is commonly found in gardens – the picture above was taken in a council car park!

Aconite is used in herbal medicine in many parts of the world and widely used in  homeopathy but never, ever try and make your own medicine from the fresh plant.

The Poison Garden website has an excellent A to Z of poisonous plants as well as many short videos like the one above with key identification points, folklore and uses of some of the plants.

Many poisonous plants have a great deal of folklore or old stories attached and if you would like to find out more about that sort of thing I highly recommend Dangerous Garden: The Quest for Plants to Change Our Lives. David Stuart has crafted a fascinating and engaging read full of  stories of poisonings, plague, medicines, mass hysteria and a wonderful insight into the role poisons play in our lives. Click on the image below and it will take you to the book on Amazon – however, I quite understand many peoples have issues with Amazon and prefer to shop elsewhere. If so, have a look at Alibris UK which is like Amazon but nicer and full of independent booksellers.

Cooking with Nasturtium Leaves and Flowers

Nasturtiums are not strictly a wild food but easy to grow and so I think they deserve a mention. They are distinctive with their unusual rounded leaves and colourful flowers. They are related to watercress and have a similar peppery flavour. Apparently Nasturtium translates into Latin as ‘nose twist’.

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Nasturtiums attract bees and other insects so are great things to have in the garden but they are also very happy growing in pots so doesn’t matter if you don’t have much space. Slugs also love them so will prefer to eat nasturtiums than veg plants so it is always good to have them on a veg plot.

I always grow mine from seed but if you buy them be aware they may have been treated with slug pellets which are really nasty chemicals so I suggest if you want some nasturtiums to eat then it is best to grow your own.

If you have never nibbled a nasturtium leaf.. do.. they are very tasty, peppery and actually quite juicy. Lovely in salads and also keep their flavour well when cooked and go very well in omelettes and quiche.

The flowers are an extraordinary taste sensation. They come in a range of colours usually yellow, orange or red but you can get some pink varieties. A mix of the pepperiness of the leaves but also amazing sweetness from the nectar. They are a colourful addition to salads.

Nasturtium Leaf Dip

nasturtium dip

 

A really simple way of using nasturtium  leaves is to chop them up finely and add to greek yoghurt or cream cheese. This is lovely with crisps, carrot sticks, celery or pretty much anything. The dip goes particularly well with wild food bhajis see previous post for bhaji recipe.

 

 

Cooking with edible flowers

Many commonly found flowers are edible and the tastes vary widely from very mild flavours in flowers like violets, borage or mallow to peppery or fiery ones like nasturtiums, chives and wild garlic.

Always make absolutely certain you know what any flower is before eating anything.

I found a short article  on delicious.magazine website about cooking with some easily identifiable edible flowers that you probably have around the house or garden anyway and that is a great place to start.

Here are just a few pictures of things you will recognise that you can eat.

Lavenda flowers

 

Lavender

dandelions

 

 

Dandelions

honeysuckle

 

Honeysuckle

 

oxeye daisy

 

 

 

Oxeye and ‘normal’ daisies

 

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Roses

 

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Nasturtiums

 

Many flowers are lovely just as they are in salads, others make great cakes, syrups or jellies or can be used in pancakes, fritters or other savoury dishes.

If you like the idea of using flowers I really recommend Cooking with Flowers: Sweet and Savory Recipes with Rose Petals, Lilacs, Lavender, and Other Edible Flowers which contains a great mix of sweet and savoury recipes as well as excellent pictures and tips on growing, picking and storing your edible flowers. Click on the image below and it will take you to the book on Amazon – however, I quite understand many peoples have issues with Amazon and prefer to shop elsewhere. If so, have a look at Alibris UK which is like Amazon but nicer and full of independent booksellers.

Lavender scones

This is a simple and tasty recipe for lavender scones from my friend Karen. They really are delicious and taste lovely simply spread with butter.

All lavender flowers are edible and you can use fresh or dried ones for this recipe. There really is no need to buy culinary lavender but do think about where it has come from if you are picking some for cooking – don’t use flowers that have been sprayed with chemicals or might have been weed on by dogs! Just a couple of flower heads is enough for this recipe.

 

Ingredients

12 oz self raising flour

4 oz caster sugar

3 oz butter or margarine

4 fluid oz buttermilk (or full fat milk)

Beaten egg to brush on top

2 big pinches lavender

Adding 1tsp baking powder gives a lighter texture but is optional

 Method

Mix the flour, baking powder and sugar and rub in butter/margarine.

Tip in buttermilk and lavender and combine.

This mixture will look very dry and crumbly to start with but do not be tempted to add more liquid. It should have a consistency like pastry. If the mixture is too moist it spreads when cooking and come out more like biscuits.. but will still be delicious!

Roll out to about an inch thick and cut into rounds, brush with beaten egg and bake 12-15 mins gas mark 7 or 220c

Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy these with butter.

lavender scones

Meadowsweet flowers on railway embankmant

Meadowsweet – cordial and medicine

Meadowsweet is a common flower which grows to about 4 feet high and has very distinctive fluffy cream flowers.  The latin name is Filipendula ulmaria or may be in older books as Spiraea ulmaria. It is usually found in wet or boggy ground in places like edges of fields,  grass verges, canal or riverbanks or railway embankments.

The scent of flowers is a bit like honey with a hint of marzipan. The leaves have tiny leaves between the larger ones and when scrunched up give off a smell a bit like old fashioned antiseptic.

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In traditional herbalism meadowsweet has a wide range of uses for digestive troubles, headaches and pain and can be used as a tea – just add a teaspoon of dried or fresh flowers to a cup of hot water and leave to brew for about 5 minutes. Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid which is what aspirin was originally synthesised from.

However if you are pregnant, asthmatic, taking warfarin or have a known allergy to aspiring then it is best avoided.

Napiers Herbalists page on meadowsweet says :-

As with all medicines, this one isn’t always going to be suitable for everyone; people with known allergy or intolerance in relation to aspirin should be cautious when trying this herb as should those suffering from asthma. Salicylic acid also helps to reduce platelet activity in the blood, which is good news in terms of avoiding heart attacks and strokes, but to be avoided if taking drugs such as warfarin or heparin and for the few days immediately prior to any kind of surgery. It should also be avoided in pregnancy.

You would have to take a lot of Meadowsweet to amount to the equivalent of a tablet; on the other hand, due to its soothing, anti-inflammatory effects it is a gentle but powerful medicine and works without the caustic side-effects of its pharmaceutical cousin.

In this short video Monica Wilde of Napiers the Herbalists talks about  how to identify meadowsweet and its historic and medicinal uses.

In this next video Monica shows you how to make Meadowsweet Cordial. Use about 250g of sugar and 1 litre of water for 30-40 heads of open flowers.

Monica also has an excellent wild food and medicine blog Wilde in the Woods with loads of useful recipes, great photos and clear instructions. She also tweets as @monicawilde.