We love growing our own food, but we are also very interested in free food from the wild. Foraging goes hand in hand with our permaculture way of gardening. The only thing we aren't comfortable with is wild mushrooms as neither of us are experienced enough to identify what is edible.
We have read some great books on the subject -
Food for Free by Richard Mabey
Seaweed and Eat it, A family foraging and cooking adventure by Xa Milne and Fiona Houston
Edible Wild Plants and Herbs, a compendium of recipes and remedies by Pamela Michael
I'm now eagerly awaiting the arrival of this book at our local library as it again looks interesting.
Anyway, so now is an ideal time to get out pick those nettles, carefully with gloves on. The young leaves are at their best at this time of the year and there are so many things you can do with them. We have made lovely nettle soup and there may be some in the pot very soon. I particularly like Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's recipe found here. There are many other recipes out there to try, the one on the Seaweed and Eat it book is also lovely and simple.
Another recipe we have used is from the New Covent Garden Soup Co - Book of Soups -
Having recently looked through the Seaweed and Eat it book, I'm tempted to make the Wild Greens Souffle which uses nettle tips, ground elder and orache. I can forage the nettle and hopefully some ground elder (must check that one out nearby) and I am growing orache. Sounds yummy and I do like a nice souffle. Other ideas are nettle fritters, nettle risotto, nettle pasta.
I'm also going to make some Wild nettle and blackcurrant leaf cordial. It's good for asthma, hayfever and eczema (we suffer them all here) and a great tonic for the immune system
To make 2-3 pints you'll need
1kg/2lb granulated sugar (preferably organic and fairtrade)
500ml/17fl oz boiling water
40g/1½oz Citric Acid
100g/3½oz nettle tips
100g/3½ young blackcurrant leaves- freshly picked(ensures maximum flavour)
Combine the water, sugar and citric acid in a large saucepan until the sugar has all dissolved. Bring to boiling point and boil rapidly for a few minutes. Add all the leaves and take off the heat. Leave in a cool dark place for 5-7 days stirring intermittently. Strain, bottle and keep in the fridge. Dilute to taste. (recipe taken from Seaweed and Eat It)
I also think this might be a good time to start experimenting with making our own beer, something we have wanted to try and do for a while but just haven't got around to. So what better than starting with Nettle Beer. We actually bought a bottle of the River Cottage nettle beer from our veg box supplier at one of their farmers markets, they have links with Hugh down at River cottage. It was quite nice so I'd like to have a go at making some of our own.