Category Archives: Recipes

Oops.. all gone!

Unfortunately.. all my many years of wild food recipes and photos got deleted recently. A friend and I shared a wild food folder in dropox and she hadn’t realised if she deleted them on her computer it would delete them everywhere. You can retrieve deleted files within 30 days but it was after that time before I noticed.

So.. it’s been a bit quiet here on the blogging front while I get stuff sorted and go through books and old scraps of paper with recipes on.

I will be doing an email soon to those of you on the email list and others who did my wild food survey – thanks for your comments and feedback.

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.

oyster

Reconsider the Oyster!

The Food Programme on Radio 4 often has some fascinating food stories and interviews. There are over 400 episodes are available on iplayer and worth having a look through the archive.

This weeks programme which was all about oysters.. as a vegetarian allergic to all seafood I almost switched off.. but it was fascinating and I highly recommend having a listen. Summary of the programme is below and click on the picture to go to BBC iplayer. Enjoy!

Reconsider the Oyster!

oyster

Listen in pop-out player

Oysters are receiving renewed attention around the world, with new ideas for producing more, and eating more. Dan Saladino finds out what’s driving this oyster enthusiasm.

As Drew Smith, author of Oyster: A World History explains, “the oyster is older than us, they’re older than grass, they go back into pre-history and it’s quite mind boggling how we’ve forgotten we really survive on this planet because of oysters”.

From discoveries of middens (piles of oyster shells left by our ancesters) through to tales of the Victorian Britain’s enoromous appetite for the oyster, Dan hears the evidence of why we used to have a much more intimate relationship with the bivalve.

Overfishing, disease and parasites turned something that was abundant into a rarity a century ago, but now people around the world are making an effort to bring the oyster back into mainstream.

In Denmark, where there still is an abundance of oysters in their waters, a national park along the Wadden Sea, on the north west coast of Denmark has started to encourage people to wade in the water and gather as many oysters as they can carry and eat. It’s hoped the experience will help people understand the oyster more and also fight to protect the environment it lives in.

Meanwhile on the British Isles the oyster is seeing interest from brewers and shellfish farmers alike, all convinced we need to reconsider how delicious and import the animal has been in our food culture.

In New York, the most ambitious oyster mission of all is underway, the “billion oyster project”, an effort to return the oyster to New York City’s harbour, once a breeding ground for trillions of oysters.

Listen to the programme and hear why these efforts are underway, and why a gold speckled jar of marmite could be the oysters’ best friend.

Produced and presented by Dan Saladino.

 

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.

 

jews ear

Wood Ear or Jew’s Ear Mushroom

Wood Ear or Jew’s Ear mushrooms are found on dead elder wood and are very common – in these politically more correct times they may also be called Jelly Ears. Most books will call them Jew’s Ears and the latin name is Auricularia auricula-judae.

jews ear on logI spotted this log by the side of a canal but once you have seen Jew’s Ear once you will notice it everywhere. It grows pretty much all year round and will be especially common after a spell of wet weather.

The fungus is best picked when pale and slightly velvety – gets quite rubbery and a bit slimy as it gets older. Use a knife or scissors to cut it away from the wood.

There is no getting away from the fact it is a bit rubbery and has quite a bland flavour but it is very common and free. I cook it up with onion and carrots and stock and make a milky soup out of it and whizz in a blender to reduce the rubbery texture!

It also has medicinal uses but not used as much these days as it used to be.  In the old classic Gerard’s Herbal it was recommended to boil Jew’s Ear mushrooms in milk as a medicine for sore throats. It is still used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine for a range of health problems and you can buy it dried or even buy cans of Jew’s Ear Juice in Chinese supermarkets if you so desire!

Jew's ear juiceCopyright Michael Saechang’s and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

sweet chestnut

Sweet Chestnuts .. and Parakeets!

Sweet Chestnuts are very commonly found in parks in the UK.  Their latin name is Castanea sativa. These photos were taken in Hyde Park in London on a recent visit to the big city. When we saw this tree there were several parakeets nibbling away at the chestnuts.chestnuts

There are many flocks of parakeets in parts of London that have escaped and adapted to their new found freedom and numbers have grown massively since the 1990’s. There are quite a few parrots too. I never quite get used to seeing parakeets and parrots in the in-laws garden in Croydon!

ringnecked-parakeet-eating-sweet-chestnut

Ringnecked Parakeet eating sweet chestnuts in Kew Gardens © Copyright Christine Matthews and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

In the autumn and winter in France the aroma of roasting chestnuts seems to be everywhere. Marrons are the cultivated version of wild sweet chestnuts and usually have one or two large chestnuts in each whereas wild ones may have one or two nuts but usually some smaller flat ones too.

Sweet chestnuts have a pointed end and conkers or horse chestnuts are rounded and have larger spikes on the shell casing ..birds will eat both but conkers are not edible for us.

sweetchestnut2In October the casings of sweet chestnuts will go brown and fall on the ground when they are ready – just tread on them to get at the nuts and collect the larger ones and not the flat ones. They do need to be cooked before eating but are very tasty, versatile and gluten free too.. will post more recipes soon but I love them just roasted.

The easiest way to cook them is slit the skins with a sharp knife and throw them in an open fire.. leave one chestnut whole and when it goes pop the others are cooked. If you don’t have an open fire just slit the skins with a knife and boil them up for  about 15 minutes, the shell will peel off easily  but the inner membrane is a bit trickier to remove. You can either just eat them as they are or save them in an airtight container in the fridge and use in a recipe later.sweetchestnut1

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.