I’m sure many of you enjoy wild blackberry picking when you are out on a walk, but have you ever foraged for anything more adventurous or unusual? I’ve gathered fallen apples and sweet chestnuts, but I’m too scared to try picking fungi as I don’t know the difference between edible mushrooms and ones which might possibly be poisonous. Perhaps I should sign up for a fungi foraging course. I shall have to look to see if there are any in this part of the UK. Or coastal foraging is another idea which I could fancy trying. And last month, I saw wild garlic in the woodland whilst out on a run. However sometimes you can even find things closer to home in your own garden like dandelions and nettles.
Typically viewed as weeds, both of these have excellent nutritious properties. Nettles are full of vitamins and minerals. So when I was digging out some young nettles that were competing with my herbs and alpine strawberries, I decided to have a go at cooking them. I chopped off the roots before bringing them in and giving them a good wash.
Now these were from my garden, but if you are foraging elsewhere, you will want to bear in mind not to pick from by the roadside or below where dogs may pee. Also gather them young before they start flowering.
I decided to make a nettle soup, but another idea is pesto, although you would still need to cook the nettles first to remove the sting. Think of using them in recipes as an alternative to spinach.
1 large bunch of nettles
micro-greens to garnish
2 medium potatoes
1/3 of a leek
1 clove of garlic
2x 100ml frozen chicken stock cubes (or vegetable stock if preferred)
pinch of thyme
salt and pepper
milk to mix
1 tbsp cream
knob of butter
Carefully wearing gloves, wash the nettles.
Cut the nettle leaves from the stalks, discarding any which look past their best.
Boil the kettle and pour water into a saucepan.
Tip the nettles into the pan and set aside for a few minutes.
Drain the nettles through a sieve, reserving the water.
Meanwhile chop potatoes, (no need to peel), leeks and chives into small pieces.
Peel and press garlic through garlic press.
Grease the saucepan with butter and gently heat.
Add the garlic, leek and chives and cover with lid.
Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Defrost the chicken stock.
Add the chicken stock and reserved nettle water and potatoes.
Bring pan to the boil, turning down to a simmer.
Cook until potatoes are soft.
Add nettles and continue cooking for a couple of minutes.
Season with thyme, salt and pepper.
Pour into blender and blend until smooth.
Return to pan and add sufficient milk to thin to desired consistency, cooking for a few more minutes.
Stir in cream.
Pour into bowls and garnish with micro greens.
Serve and enjoy.
A very tasty satisfying soup indeed.
I’d love to hear your foraging recipes? I’m contemplating elderflowers and rosehips for cordial. My elder tree is flowering now but only one branch of flowers is in reach. The others are too high up.
Who else has tried nettles?
And finally if you do forage for food in the wild, please remember to leave plenty behind for birds and other creatures.