Archives for category: Foraging

I’ve learned so much listening to podcasts on A Sustainable Mind through the years.

This interview with Mallory O’Donnell, whose blog How to Cook a Weed is a favourite, struck me. The discussion reflects an approach to foraging which isn’t so much about wild food as trophy but instead gathered plant as relationship– with nature, with gardened landscape and feral escapees, with one’s own process of learning and self-education. I find this moving and hopeful. Have a listen.  And there’s loads to learn and recipes to inspire on the blog.  Looking forward to Mallory’s book!

How to Cook a Weed


I had the great pleasure earlier this month to be interviewed by Marjorie Alexander for the incredible A Sustainable Mind podcast. Marjorie highlights people who are doing some truly inspiring work around issues of ecology, food waste, reusable energy, sustainable living and a myriad of other matters that all relate very closely to the issues that are close to my heart. I feel honored to be included amongst these folks who are contributing in a much more direct way to facing and resolving what is one of the great crises of our times.

It is my firm belief that living more simply and in greater harmony with nature is one of the most important and personal steps we can take in life. I urge you to think about the sustainability of your actions every time you collect wild food, to understand and acknowledge the relationships of the plants and wildlife around…

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Hello George Monbiot, here talking about roadkill as ethical meat, and I’m with him on this one, for all the reasons he dislikes most farm-bred meat, mentioned in the video above and discussed here and here.

And I have friends who, as foresters and re-wilders, deeply hate the grey squirrels of Britain for the damage these invasive creatures do to (re)foresting efforts; these activists see eating squirrel as a vote for a wider notion of Ecology.  Here’s a blog from a journalist in Scotland who writes about eating squirrel from this point of view.

When I wrote about rabbit over a year ago, I catalogued recipes in my cookbooks to give readers a sense of culinary possibility, and myself a future reference.  I’m reposting this list for everyone who might be inspired to try something new.  Squirrels are meant to cook very similar to rabbit, hence the recipes can be transposed.

For me eating squirrel is hypothetical so far, I should add– though there’s a dead one, courtesy of our cat, in front of our house, and I’m talking to kids about the succession of creatures that eat and rot the dead, especially the gorgeous bottle flies with their metallic blue-green jewel bodies.

Rabbit/ Squirrel Recipes Read the rest of this entry »


Sweet Nettle and Sorrel Custard Rough Puff Tartlets — what a mouthful for these novel, mouthful- size morsels, made from all good things… Inspired by Penelope Casas.

Crema De Espinacas en Canutillos:

“At the beginning of the [20th] century, this most unusual dessert of custard and spinach was popular in Bilbao; it continues to be featured at some of the city’s finest restaurants, either in a tart shell or as a filling for pastry horns,  It is said to be a vestige of the medieval custom of sweetening just about every kind of food imaginable….”

So wrote Penelope Casas in her truly exciting collection of regional Spanish recipes Delicioso!

Nettles are everywhere now, growing taller before our very eyes. The wonderfullest of weeds, the most delicious, nutritious and ubiquitous –why aren’t they the national food of Britain, as Frank Cook asks in this video.  Am just determined to use them as frequently and creatively as I can.

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Another quick must-share, yesterday’s Nettle Sorrel Green Soup, an easy and good Sunday supper and dish to discuss in my new anti-recipe, pro-technique zeal.

And I’m now polyamorous, sharing my passion for Nettles with Sorrel, because that lemony zing on the side of the tongue is a wild and captivating sensation. Read the rest of this entry »

If you enjoyed that clip, the whole film can be watched here, on the filmmaker’s page.  I watched it last night, and was moved by this portrait of the remarkable, utterly individual Juliette de Bairacli Levy, a majorly original and influential British herbalist.

Her life attests to living with passion, love, curiosity, a sense of being free. Read the rest of this entry »

Just watched this video on a wonderful blog Frequent Found Growing on Disturbed Ground, which includes a verse from the Tao Te Ching that gave me goosebumps.  Frank Cook was a profound and incredibly knowledgable, powerful man, and it’s a gift of technology that he can still speak to us through it’s workings.  This is another site on which to learn about him, and revel in his life.


Several years ago, when William and Kate got married, someone in our town organised a street party. Now– I love the idea of a street party, the history and tradition of mass celebration of Royal Weddings in Britain, the comradery, the feasting. Yet there’s also a deep ambivalence about the concept and public financial drain of monarchy. I was torn about participating.  But, because Kate and Will were a couple based in love, something truly to celebrate, and because I wanted to support the efforts of the girl so enthusiastically organising the event, I decided to join in.

At that time, I was attempting to make a dandelion preserve, a jelly really, but the whole thing went wrong, because without any pectin — I guess I could have used apples for a mild tasting thickening agent– it didn’t solidify.  What resulted was a thick syrup, known as Dandelion Honey.  I wasn’t fully satisfied though because I knew from the process that there had been a moment of beautiful, delicate fragrance that I’d boiled away in my attempt to make the jelly.  So I resolved to try again in the future to recreate that ephemeral moment of sublime dandelion perfume that I’d experienced.

Read the rest of this entry »


Rhubarb– an avatar of springtime, tart, glorious, friendly.

I happened upon this recipe for a wonderful Rhubarb Compote  with it’s suggestion to roast the rhubarb for better shape retention, and the inclusion of a link to a Rhubarb – Rose Petal Jam. Heavenly.

But on my countertop — me whose husband did once affectionately suggest I name this blog Kitchen Counter Clutter for all my space-occupying experiments– sat a jar of Rosehip Syrup, the hips suspended since September in a sugar syrup.   It needed using up.   The syrup had never developed the intensity I’d wished for, and next autumn I will wait until frost softens the hard shells and perhaps do some simmering– the old fashioned way. But, there was a nevertheless a lovely perfume to it, and a slight bite despite its sweetness.


So I strained out the hips, added a little wild Blackberry Apple Vinegar (I’d read Jamie Oliver somewhere adding a dash of balsamic vinegar to his rhubarb) to dilute the sugar crystals on the bottom, and poured the syrup over the stalks. And into a medium oven it all went, maybe for 20 minutes.

Indeed they did stay stalkier, less mushed. And were wonderful with the homemade, vanilla-flecked custard and crumbled shortbread biscuits.  Really good. And the juice on the bottom of the roasting pan— mmmmm— rhubarb infused rosehip syrup.  Just decadent with the last of the custard clinging to the bottom of the pan.


In past years I’ve made jams I call Tutti-Frutti for their mix of rhubarb with orange, apple, strawberries (classic), raspberries– whatever is around.  And I love Deborah Madisons use of orange juice and cloves in her stewed rhubarb in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and that’s become a fall-back combo for me.  Lots of people love ginger, fresh and powdered, paired with rhubarb (perhaps oddly, I don’t).  Maybe it’s wonderful with all bright and spicy flavours.   Now I’m thinking…. hibiscus tea! Also everyone’s hedgerow jams that linger in the cupboard– maybe my friend’s Crabapple Jelly, maybe black currant preserves…  Would all be wonderful in compotes and tarts.  Want to explore.

Gather Ye Nettle Tops While Ye May

Gather Ye Nettles While Ye May, or, if you are a Permaculture person feeling inspired by the Design Principles, “Catch and Store Energy: Make Hay While the Sun Shines.”

When you look around, especially in Britain, nettles grow wild, inspiring a thousand culinary uses as a free vegetable.   March, April, early May are the best months for gathering, before the plants grow too big and minerals crystallise in the leaves, causing potential kidney  issues.  (Of course, you can “manage” a patch to keep the tips young and soft.) There are so many things I want to cook with them, but I also have a love for nettles as a herb, and so forage as much as I can in early spring for use throughout the year.

I just go out with scissors and snip the tops into a bowl or bag.  I might use gloves if I didn’t enjoy the pleasure of the sting.  I put them in a large bowl and toss them around in the open air until they are fully dried, then they go into a jar.  Maybe there are more official ways to dry herbs; for nettles in spring, this seems to work.  (Not so for Nettle Seeds in autumn– one’s i’ve gathered have always gotten mould before being fully dry, maybe because of the moisture content.  On my to-do list to figure out.)

Nettle tea:  Here’s a list of potential health benefits.  I drink a cup of nettle tea every night before bed, because I find it delicious and relaxing.  I throw a few leaves into soup stocks.  And last year, I made some Nettle Salt, and plan more for this year.

The idea occurred to me reading the 101 Cookbooks instruction for Celery Salt .  I’d been given a load of slightly sad celery and decided to use the leaves for this. So easy– basically dry the leaves in a slow oven, crumble, and combine with an equal quantity of sea salt.  I could have added Kale, anything green really.  Vegetable Salts, why not?  The celery stems, fibrous and aged, I fermented, for a kind of soup stock– I will re-enact this for a blog at a future date.  And in fact, one could use these kind of salts in one’s lacto-fermenting; they are pretty much all-purpose, and mineral rich.


The idea for Nettle Salt just occurred right there and then, and I made it with nettles I’d gathered and dried for tea.

Really nice at the table, but somehow especially simple and poetic on a hard boiled egg.  Or on popcorn.

So under a blue sky on this spring day,  my children happily occupied, with only a million other more important, in fact urgent, work-related tasks to accomplish, off I go to gather my nettle tops while I may, to catch and store (herbal) energy while the sun shines, from untended, abundant edges.

On Bergamot and Blackberry Leaf

Thank you Wikipedia for reminding us that these informative, pleasure-giving engravings are our COMMON heritage, ie, in the Commons!)


This morning on the radio: not enough talk about the IPCC report, Boo Hiss!  Climate and how we are going to shift the destructive ways of society is the most important topic there is!

But good anyway: mention of a new study linking the Bergamot in Earl Grey Tea with effective reductions in heart disease.  I do love Earl Gray, so feel encouraged to indulge.  Read here about all the goodness in Bergamot extract.

A few questions arose–

Do we consider that these studies took place at universities in the regions of Italy that grow the most of these citrus fruits, thus maybe the researchers are not scientifically neutral, or maybe they are, and it’s all ok?

Do we wonder about the life and conditions of the people working on these farms in Italy, much as years ago the Body Shop  tried to promote community / Fair Trade for the bergamot in their cosmetics?    I remember there being an expose of workers in Haiti who picked the oranges for Grand Marnier— is the citrus industry universally brutal?

So many varieties of citrus, and our knowledge of them is really so limited:  are citrus varieties going the way of homogeneity like so much else in the world food supply managed by agribusiness?

And could I grow Bergamot here in mid-altitude, mid-latitude Wales?  Not really.  Turns out the wonderful Monarda, aka Bee Balm, aka Bergamot, is something completely different even if the smell of the flowers is reminiscent.  But I think someday I’ll try to grow it anyway, for all its own wonders and charms.

Ah, I wish I had a nice cuppa Earl Grey with which ponder and research these issues…

In the meantime, I was reminded of a successful experiment last year, making what I saw referred to as Iron Age Earl Grey? Or was it Stone Age Earl Grey? Or….  Ancient Land of the Celts Earl Grey?  You get the picture.

Brambles are everywhere, and the leaves are nutritious and useful from a herbal point of view.  (And for the tannins, they are great stuck in a fermentation of vegetables to aid in keeping the crunch!)  Here’s another concise description — “Blackberry and Raspberry Plants in Herbal Medicine.”

So when you are out foraging, in byways and fields or a suburban back garden, and  if you find yourself this spring digging the aggressive vines and suckers that shall indeed inherit the earth (not the meek!)– pick the lovely young leaves off the blackberry stems and let them dry inside.    Beat them a little– crumple, rumple, wear them down….  Then let them live in a moist tea towel for a few days, ferment a little, then dry them out again, for use and for storage.  They will have the most lovely perfume, comparable to the bergamot in Earl Grey, and a slight, enjoyable bitterness in the health-giving, foraged tea you make with them.


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