This of you that have been following me on instagram will already know that I have been experimenting with different plant milks to find vegan substitutes for some of my milk consumption.
The most successful, and the most like regular milk so far was cashew milk but as I also just heard about the process of harvesting cashews, in which the pickers often suffer acid burns, this was never going to be a sustainable replacement for locally produced cows milk for me.
My favourite more sustainable, and more locally grown candidates have therefore been oat milk ( oats also readily available in card or paper and quite cheap) and hemp (so far I have bought this in plastic from local health food store but it grows in the UK and there are other suppliers online). Both of these are amazingly easy to make. Unfortunately both were very strange in hot drinks, sinking straight to the bottom of the cup. However I liked the taste of hemp milk in tea, after a few cups of getting used to the more nutty flavour.
Then came a game changing solution from someone in the Journey to Zero Waste UK Facebook group. I have been experimenting since and now have a homemade hemp milk I am happy to use in tea on a semi regular basis.
All you need is:
1/2 a cup of hemp seeds
6 cups water
1 or 2 dates (or alternative sweetener such as maple syrup)
1 level teaspoon xanthan gum ( you can find this in the baking section of supermarkets or health food stores)
A sieve / muslin cloth/ jelly bag
Pop the hemp seeds, date, and water into the blender and, at the last moment, add your teaspoon of xanthan gum.
Blend for several minutes until it looks milk like.
Strain through a sieve. If you prefer to remove all the black specks of hemp seed you will need to pass it through something finer such as a muslin cloth or jelly bag – I usually just use a sieve but see from the photos I took earlier that I used a jelly bag the first time. As the xanthan gum makes the liquid slightly gloopy this may take a while and a bit of assistance from the edge of a spoon – if it is really too thick to go through pop it back into the blender and add a bit more water – you want the consistency to be slightly thick but not too gloopy. It is easier to add more water than to add more xanthan gum which doesn’t seem to mix in properly after the first step.
Decant into a bottle or jar and store in the fridge ready for use.
Don’t forget to scrape the sieved out hemp seeds out of the sieve/jelly bag and store those for another use – I have so far used them in cereal bars, granola or added to the next loaf of bread/pizza.
And that’s it – it should keep for 3-5 days in the fridge. Do let me know if you make it and how you get on. And I would love to hear any other plant milk making tips.
Update to add that it also tastes good with 1tbsp of chia seeds added at the beginning – you can leave those to soak for a bit first as they absorb liquid and swell up.
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Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that we managed to grown a few humungous green squash of some uncertain variety in our back garden this year. The last one harvested this week weighed in at over 5 kg!
I was expecting them to be a green variety of butternut but they turned out to be much less flavoursome than the nutty butternuts so I have had to be inventive and a bit sneaky to get the family to eat them, especially my generally vegetable averse son who wouldn’t go near anything if he thought it contained squash.
So, I have been experimenting – these are a couple of recipes I will be making again – especially since hubby and son are off to buy a pumpkin to carve today so there will be even more to use.
Easy Pumpkin Pizza Dough
Home made pizza is a firm favourite in our house. We like that the toppings can be tailored to each family member to avoid waste.
I searched for pumpkin pizza dough recipes and came up with several paleo or gluten free versions but I wanted to make it as close as possible to our usual pizza base so no-one would know the difference, and to keep it as simple as possible, because who has time for recipes involving about 20 ingredients? So I experimented with a basic pizza dough recipe:
375g bread flour (or 00 pasta flour)
1tsp quick yeast or easy bake yeast
1tbsp olive oil
Approx 400g pumpkin or other winter squash (enough to make approx 250ml puree)
Start by preparing your pumpkin or squash puree – peel and dice then cook the squash until just tender. I steamed mine as I wanted to keep the flavour fairly bland so it wouldn’t be detected in the finished product but you could roast for a fuller flavour. Steaming the squash took about 10-15 mins. Roasting may take a little longer.
Mash or blend the cooked squash and allow to cool.
Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl and make a well in the centre.
Measure out 250 ml of cooled puree – don’t worry if you have less than this as you can add water to the dough if necessary.
Start by adding about 200 ml of the puree to the dry ingredients and mix well to form a dough – if the dough is still dry add more puree a little at a time. If it is too wet you can add a little more flour. Once it feels about right knead the dough on a well floured surface for about 5 mins until smooth and elastic.
Leave the dough in a warm place for at least 30 mins to rise – it should roughly double in size. You can leave it in the bowl covered with a damp tea towel, or simply leave it on the counter covered by your upturned mixing bowl.
Preheat your oven and oiled pizza trays to 200 degrees C.
Cut the dough into portions and roll to desired size and thickness on a well floured surface. This quantity will make 2 x 30cm round pizzas or more smaller, thinner pizzas. We usually make quite a thin crust so I split the dough in half – put half the dough in the freezer and then made pizzas for 3 of us with the remaining half.
Bake the rolled dough on the hot tray for about 5 mins before removing from the oven, turning the base over and then adding your desired toppings. This will help the base go crispy. Return to the oven for approx 10 mins for a thin base, longer for a thicker base.
UPDATE – THERE IS AN EVEN EASIER WAY: This came out so well I was confident enough to experiment with using pumpkin puree in my bread machine. If you have a bread machine with a pizza dough programme you can use that and simply replace the water with an equal volume of pumpkin or squash puree. I also tried the same with a regular white bread programme to make bread with hidden veg content. No-one noticed the difference!
Easy Pumpkin Pasta
I made this with butternut squash a few weeks ago. The method is pretty much the same as for wholemeal dried pasta but I used white flour and substituted the squash puree for the water. Pasta has to be my son’s favourite meal so if I can crack finding a homemade version he really likes it will be great.
3 cups plain flour or pasta flour
1 cup pumpkin or squash puree
Peel, dice and cook your butternut squash or pumpkin until tender by either boiling, steaming or roasting. I started mine off on the hob and left it cooking in my Wonderbag while I was out at a class. Perfectly cooked by the time I came home.
Mash or blend the squash to a smooth puree:
Mix the dough either by hand or in a food processor – with the ratio of 1 cup puree to 2 of flour until you have a nice dough. I didn’t measure it carefully and used too much puree so the dough on the right is rather too wet. This is easily rectified by adding more flour until the consistency is right. (At this point I found I had run out of flour so had to dash to the shop for some more ).
Roll the dough into a ball, cover (with an upturned mixing bowl ) and leave to rest for about 10 mins.
Then, on a well floured surface, roll the dough out to be nice and thin – thinner than I managed would be good – I definitely need more practice, or a pasta machine.
Leave them as noodles or form into your desired shape. Either cook in boiling water for a couple of minutes or dry for future use. When dry they will need to be cooked for 8-10 minutes.
Happy to report that both the pizza and pasta were happily eaten with son none the wiser that he had been eating more vegetables.
As well as these I made spicy soup, cheesey pumpkin scones and pumpkin muffins, pumpkin marmalade which if it passes the taste test will be given as Christmas gifts, and have lots of diced and pureed squash in the freezer for future use so would love to hear more ideas for using up that pumpkin and squash. What’s your favourite recipe?
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I have never been a great fan of pasta, but my son absolutely loves it – he would eat pasta and pesto every single day if I’d let him. But in the UK it is difficult to find pasta without plastic packaging, particularly if you want to buy in large quantities (there are some options mainly in card but with a small plastic window). Having heard it was easy I thought I should give it a go – and it really is easy – and it got the taste approval from my fussy child. You can easily buy flour in a paper bag which you can either recycle or put in your home compost.
3 cups wholemeal bread flour
1 cup hot water
Making the dough:
If you are using a food processor fit the dough attachment.
Add the flour, pour in the hot water and switch it on. It will turn to breadcrumbs to start with but stick with it and it will soon come together into a dough.
Turn out onto a floured surface.
If you are making the dough by hand place it in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the flour and pour in the hot water a little at a time and mix together either with your hands or a wooden spoon. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until it comes together in a dough.
Press the dough down into a flat round. Divide into 4 quarters (this will make it more manageable to roll out later).
Cover with a clean dry tea towel and leave for 10-15 minutes.
You could freeze all or some of the dough at this point for later use if you wish.
Now you can begin to turn it in into your desired shapes:
Working with one piece of dough at a time roll it very thinly.
Then you can get creative and cut and shape to your heart’s desire – but be warned, this bit can take a long time. I like to look on it as something therapeutically undemanding on the brain to do while listening to some muscic but you could get the kids to help or invite a friend round for a natter while you work. Slicing into lasagne sheets or into strips for tagliatelle is probably the quickest. I tried to make spirals on my first attempt but decided this time that bows might be easier. For bows I rolled the dough then cut into strips which I then cut across into small rectangles as shown below. To turn into bows you simply squeeze them together in the middle.
Drying your pasta:
If you don’t want to use your pasta straight away you can dry it for storage. As I have an electric dehydrator I used that but if you don’t you can just spread them out and leave somewhere airy until dry.
The time it takes to dry depends on the size and thickness of the shapes you have made – I dried the small bows for 3-4 hours at 50 degrees C. The first batch of spirals were larger and took 4-5 hours. The best thing is to keep an eye on them and remember to swap around the trays from time to time since the different levels may dry at different speeds.
Once fully dry you can transfer to a storage jar until needed and cook as you would shop bought dried pasta – around 8-10 mins. If you skipped the drying part you’ll need to shorten the cooking time.
Now I know how to make basic pasta dough I’m next going to try to sneak some vegetables into the ingredients – as he’ll happily eat shop bought green pea pasta, and red lentil pasta without realising. I have seen people making pasta from pumpkin puree and flour as an example – but any recommendations on things to try are welcome – please comment below.
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When it comes to Christmas and New Year entertaining, easy is good. Well, let’s be realistic, easy is good anytime.
Last week I made Banoffee Pie, to take to family for a Boxing Day tea. Since they started selling ready tinned caramel so you don’t have to boil a tin of condensed milk for hours Banoffee Pie has been my go to easy dessert. But this dessert, inspired by Millionaire’s Shortbread, is even easier. Yes really.
250g biscuits ( I used digestives as I had half a pack left from the banoffee pie but I bet something oaty like Hob Nobs would work really well)
100g unsalted butter
1 tin caramel (I used Carnation)
200g block of milk chocolate ( I used Choceur from Aldi which comes in easily recyclable card packaging and is free from palm oil)
Optional decoration ( I used Dr Oetker Gold Shimmer Spray but as I subsequently noticed this contains palm oil I would omit or seek an alternative in future)
( I have mentioned which products I used for convenience only – this post contains no affiliate links)
Grease a flan dish or baking tray well.
Crush the biscuits either using a food processor or by wrapping them carefully in a clean tea towel or (ideally cloth) bag and bashing with a rolling pin.
Melt the butter – I did this in the microwave, setting the timer to 30 secs and checking and stirring every 10 secs or so until completely melted, but melt in a pan if you prefer.
Stir the butter into the crushed biscuits until well combined.
Tip the mixture carefully into your flan dish and press down with the back of a wooden spoon.
Chill for approx 1 hour until firm.
Spread the caramel carefully over the biscuit base and chill again until you are ready to top with the chocolate.
Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a bain marie or in a jug in the microwave. I prefer the microwave as it is quicker but as with the butter check and stir it frequently until just melted.
Pour the melted chocolate onto the caramel carefully, gently spreading with a spatula until the top is covered.
Decorate as required and chill again until the chocolate has set.
To serve cut carefully with a sharp knife and have your plate or bowl at the ready – it will crumble! And enjoy. Remember, easy is good.
I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions, and I suppose this isn’t really one anyway as I’m not proposing it for the whole year.
We were out for lunch yesterday, combined with a trip to see the new Star Wars film – I’d just eaten a burger, in a restaurant full of people eating loads of meat a few days after Christmas (perhaps like us they’d just run out sufficient Christmas leftovers to make a decent meal and couldn’t face the supermarket again) when I decided I had probably eaten enough meat over the past few days to last me for a month (I don’t generally eat meat every day).
So I decided that I am going to have a meat free January. I mentioned my idea to my husband when we got home and said that the rest of the family didn’t have to join in and he came up with a whole range of meat free meals that we could both enjoy (most of which we have from time to time anyway) . Hurrah! I’m not sure this means he is officially joining in but that at least I can do meat free main meals for us. There are only a few meat free things I will get son to eat – quorn chilli (as he hasn’t yet realised it’s not meat) and pasta with pesto ( which he would probably eat every day if he could), so we’ll still do some meat dishes for him but that shouldn’t be a problem – we often cook separately for him anyway as he’s such a fussy eater, and we’re not often both home by the time he needs to eat.
I’m sharing this publicly at the start as it will help me achieve it. The one exception I’m going to allow is to use the turkey stock I made on Christmas Day – as long as it is in an otherwise meat free dish, because I don’t want it to go to waste.
When I lived alone I didn’t eat meat that often, maybe once a week so I’m hoping it wont be too hard, and I have plenty of meat free recipes in my repetoire. I’m off to soak some chick peas and kidney beans now ready for some chilli and curries.
Wish me luck. I’ll be sharing how I get on over on Instagram
Not much is growing in our back garden at this time of year, but my dad is still harvesting and sharing beetroot from his allotment. He gave us such a lot that I ate beetroot every single day for more than a week, and twice on some days so was in need of a selection of different recipes for a bit of variety! Some of my favourite recipes are shared below, and thanks go to Rosie at A Green and Rosie Life and Erin at The Rogue Ginger for allowing me to include links to their beetroot recipes. The post is also being shared on Rosie’s Going Green Linky.
Beetroot and Halloumi
Our favourite way of eating beetroot is a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book Nigella’s Kitchen for beetroot pureed with lime juice and a little olive oil. Nigella uses vacuum packed beetroot but if you are using fresh you need to trim the leaves (leaving a little of the stalk still attached) and boil with the skin on until tender. This year I have been saving energy by cooking the beetroot in my Wonderbag – I gently wash the beetroot and place it a lidded casserole dish and cover with water (it works best if the casserole is pretty full), bring to the boil for about 5 minutes and then pop it into the Wonderbag (the Wonderbag is an insulated bag which retains the heat so the food conitnues to cook without needing additional energy) for a few hours until we are ready to eat. Once cooked, allow to cool a little and the skin can be easily peeled off by hand. You will also have a casserole full of gloriously red beetroot water which you can save to use in stock, soup or risotto.
Once peeled blend the beetroot with the juice of a lime and a little olive oil. Season with pepper.
Slice up a block of halloumi into about 10 slices and dry fry in a frying pan until browned.
Serve the halloumi over a bed of salad leaves (earlier in the year than now we would use rocket and land cress from the garden, along with marigold and nasturtium flowers but you can use whatever salad leaves you like). Then drizzle the beetroot puree on top.
Beetroot, Potato and Chorizo Hash
Another easy recipe is this one which originally came from an Asda magazine. You can substitute other root vegetables depending what you have available, and could use leftover roast veg.
Preheat the oven to 190c.
Cut approx 300g of potatoes (you can peel them but I prefer to leave the skin on), 300g of beetroot (peeled) and one sweet potato (peeled) into cubes and boil for 5-10 mins. Drain well.
Place the drained vegetables into a roasting tray with 2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges, and 225g of diced or sliced chorizo.
Mix together 1tbsp sunflower oil, 2tsp wholegrain mustard and 2tbsp Worcestershire Sauce. Pour the mixture into the roasting tray and stir to coat the meat and veg.
Bake for approx 40 mins, stirring after 20 mins.
Top each serving with a fried egg and season with black pepper.
I love risotto – I could pretty much eat it every day ( and before I had a husband and son to cater for I pretty much did, adding whatever other ingredients I happened to have). So here is a link to my Easy Beetroot Risotto recipe, on the blog a few years ago.
My Beetroot and Fennel Soup recipe was from the really early days of my blog, so there is a link to the recipe but sadly no pictures as I hadn’t yet worked out how to add them!
I also made a Beetroot Cake which my son loved, mainly because he thought it was made with raspberries! I much prefer this to the popular beetroot/chocolate cake combination.
Heat the oven to 180C.
Grease an 8 inch cake tin.
Mix together 250g self raising flour, 2tsp baking powder and 150 of soft brown sugar.
Then add 100g of sultanas and 250g of peeled, grated beetroot.
In a separate bowl beat together 150ml of sunflower oil and 2 medium eggs, then add into the dry ingredients and mix together.
Pour into the cake tin and bake for 1-1 1/4 hours.
Fellow bloggers Rosie and Erin kindly shared these great beetroot recipes from their respective blogs. Follow the links to view the full recipes on the host blog. A reminder that you can use the whole beetroot – don’t throw away those leaves. I often freeze them to use as a spinach substitute if I don’t want to use them straight away.
It was only recently when we were trying out a bokashi bin to allow us to compost cooked food waste that I truly realised how many bread crusts we were throwing away, and how much of the bread was still attached to that crust. It is such a waste to throw it away, and feels even more so when the bread is homemade. From time to time I would cut off the crusts to use for breadcrumbs for example but we don’t use those a great deal so I just kept hoping that my son would eventually start eating them if I left them on.
Anyhow, I have now resigned myself to the fact that it is much lest wasteful if I just cut off the crusts beforehand. Now I have almost a whole shelf in the freezer full of breadcrusts so had to come up with something to use them for. I have been blitzing some up with cheese to make a crispy topping for lasagne and other pasta bakes, and found a recipe for brushing the crusts with butter, sprinkling with cinammon and sugar and baking until crispy which was a great success – my son and his friend polished that lot off pretty quickly.
We also have a lot of rhubarb so I wanted to come up with a dessert to make use of some of that as well as incorporating the bread crusts. So here it is – bread and butter pudding (although this recipe doesn’t actually include butter but is not like British bread pudding) made with bread crusts and rhubarb.
Rhubarb ( approx 3 stalks)
Bread crusts (equivalent to approx 4 slices of bread – you could of course use slices of bread instead)
1tbsp brown sugar
Approx 500ml milk
1 tbsp vanilla essence
Ginger and cinammon to taste.
Wash and chop the rhubarb and place it with the sugar into a glass jug or microwaveable bowl – microwave for a minute or 2 until it starts to soften.
Spread out the bread crusts and cooked rhubarb in a shallow dish. Add some ginger to taste (this can be fresh, ground, crystallised or stem ginger – I used crystallised ginger which I chopped up and scattered amongst the bread and rhubarb)
Mix together the milk, eggs and vanilla essence.
Pour over the bread and rhubarb and leave for at least 10 minutes to soak in ( in my efforts to use them up I had used rather more bread crusts than I should and it all soaked in pretty quickly).
Sprinkle with cinammon or additional brown sugar to taste.
Bake at 180 degrees C for 30-40 mins until set and golden.
Serve with cream, custard or ice cream.
I made enough to last us 2 days and I would say it was actually better cold on the second day served with vanilla ice cream – I guess the flavours had more time to mingle.
Rhubarb is one of the few plants that reliably turns up a bumper crop in our garden every year. It grows so well in its spot next to the compost bin that we always have way more than we know what do with, even more so since my dad split it into 4 plants a couple of years ago. Preserving it in a jam is a great way of keeping some for later in the year (although I must admit to starting eating this straight away). Although best made with early rhubarb you can also use larger stalks just fine. Our rhubarb plant has been passed down through the generations so I have no idea what variety it is – it originally came from a plant in my great grandfather’s garden and as a child it came with us when we moved house. When I first got my own place we split the plant so I could plant my own and it has since moved again with me, and a plant has been returned to dad for his allotment.
The apples and the lemon rind and juice in this recipe help it to set – if you were to leave them both out you may need to use jam sugar, which contains added pectin. If you are organised enough to have planned ahead I am sure you could use frozen diced apples which would allow you to use foraged crab apples or homegrown if you are lucky enough to have an apple tree.
Rhubarb and Apple Jam:
1kg rhubarb stalks, washed and trimmed, then sliced into approx 1cm chunks
3 eating apples or a large cooking apple, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces
1kg preserving sugar ( or jam sugar for added pectin)
1tsp ground ginger (optional)
25g unsalted butter
Either a preserving pan or a heavy based large saucepan
Grater or lemon zester
Sterilised jars – you can reuse old jam jars. This recipe will probably make about 4-6 jars depending on the size but have a couple more ready just in case.
Jam or sugar thermometer (optional) or put several saucers in the fridge or freezer (to use later to test the jam setting point).
How to sterilise the jars:
Wash your jars thoroughly in soapy water or a dishwasher and dry in an oven at 140 degrees C for at least 10 mins – then keep them warm until ready to use. Scald the clean lids in boiling water. You can alternatively use a sterilising solution according to the pack instructions and warm the jars after rinsing thoroughly.
Rhubarb, sugar and lemon
Place the sliced rhubarb into a large bowl with the sugar.
Use the lemon zester or grater to grate the lemon rind into the bowl. Then cut the lemon in half and squeeze in the juice.
Give it all a stir. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth such as a tea towel and leave for a few hours, stirring occasionally. You should see some juices start to come out of the rhubarb (if not you can leave it longer – some recipes say to leave overnight but I find a few hours works fine).
Meanwhile wash and sterilise your jars as above.
Empty your bowl of rhubarb and sugar with all the juices into your pan. Add the chopped apple and ginger (if using).
Bring the mixture to a boil slowly so that the rhubarb and apple have time to soften.
Then bring the mix to a rolling boil and boil until it reaches setting point ( see below), stirring frequently to prevent sticking (and because personally I prefer the rhubarb broken up rather than in big chunks in the final jam). I found this took about 25 mins but this may vary.
Once your jam has reached setting point remove from the heat, stir in the butter and leave to cool down a little. You may find it has formed a skin on cooling in which case give it a quick stir before spooning carefully into your warmed jars. Place the lids on while still warm.
How to test for setting point:
Using a jam thermometer – setting point should be achieved at around 104 -105 degrees C. However you may find it difficult to test accurately if you are making a relatively small amount of jam in a large pan – I have never managed it and prefer the saucer method. When you think the jam is approaching setting point (it will start to thicken a little), get a cold saucer from your fridge/freezer and carefully drop a little of the jam onto it. Give it a moment to cool and then press with your finger – if ready it should wrinkle a little. If not cook for another few minutes and test again.
When we switched to making chips with unpackaged sweet potatoes from the market instead of buying bags of ready made potato fries ( the sweet potato cooks much quicker and produces no waste – only wish we could manage to grow them successfully here) we also discovered the child loves them covered in cajun spices. As we got through the second jar hubby was sprinkling on liberally I read the label – do you know how much salt is in this? ( A lot). And actually, do you know we also have all these other spices already in the cupboard. So now I make our own. It’s dead simple, means one less spice jar to buy and dispose of, is cheaper, and, yes it’s also so much healthier without them realising.
So, start by finding yourself a lovely empty jar to reuse. Then depending how large it is, fill it with the appropriate multiple of these lovely spices ( please feel free to vary the proportions to taste – we like it spicy so usually add extra chilli and smoked paprika).
5tbsp ground cumin or cumin seeds
5tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2tbsp black pepper
1/2 to 1 tbsp chilli flakes
1tbsp ground ginger
And if you wish a little salt – I usually just add a sprinking of Lo-Salt to taste.
If you happen to have dried garlic I dare say a little of that would be jolly good too.
Then give it all a good shake.
To use on sweet potatoes, cut them into chips, then roll in a little olive oil and in some of the spice mix. Then roast for approx 20 mins ( 200 degrees C)
On a lovely hot and sunny Saturday morning I walked across the water meadows and along the canal to meet Kat and a small group of fellow foragers keen to learn from her experience.
She began by showing us some borage, which she told us is used to flavour Pimms. This was one I know for adding to a drink- you can freeze the pretty purple blue flowers in ice cubes or just pop into your drink as a garnish. We all took a taste of the stalk which is slightly cucumbery. The leaves are slightly furry.
We then took a look at ground elder, growing close to the ground as the name suggests. As leaves look similar to those of the elder tree it is important to check that the plant is not actually a young elder tree sapling (in which case it would have a more woody stalk and likely be under or close to an existing elder tree), as the tree leaves are not edible. The young ground elder leaves had a lovely tangy taste. This plant was brought in by the Romans as it is apparently good for gout.
We then had a look at a young burdock plant – the root is used to flavour dandelion and burdock and can also be used as a vegetable, but remember you should not dig up a plant without the landowner’s permission. You can also eat the young leaf stems, first stripping off the hard outer peel.
Everybody’s favourite of the day was Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge – there was a plentiful supply of this along the canal and the river and it tastes just as the name suggests. It’s best to take just the top few leaves from any individual plant – these can be eaten raw and can also be used to make a great pesto. I later spotted these a little closer to home so will definitely be out for some more of these in the next week.
The leaves of ground ivy, a low growing creeping perennial with small purple/blue flowers can be used to make a herbal tea and were used to flavour beer before the use of hops became widespread.
Nettles are the wild edible most people will be familiar with but I didn’t know that stinging nettles are actually unrelated to the white and purple flowering deadnettles ( which don’t sting) although all are edible. The young shoots and leaves of deadnettles can be added to salads or stir fries. Stinging nettles are popularly used for soup but can also be used in a variety of other dishes such as risotto, or to make a syrup. They are very high in iron and a range of other vitamins. It is best to use young plants in their first year, and remember to bring gloves for picking them.
We also had a look at the hawthorn – a familar sight in British hedgerows. The leaves can be dried in summer and used to make a tea. The leaves contain a chemical which helps you to feel full and are known as “bread and cheese”. The small fruits which appear later in the year are edible but fairly bland ( when I have tried them before I found them to be like a very small floury bland apple). They can be used to make hawthorn jelly or added to other fruits and dried to make a fruit leather.
Still alongside the canal, we took a look at the large leaved comfrey plant. The leaves can be boiled and used like spinach but it is also known for its medicinal properties ( for healing bones). You can also cook the leaves tempura style in a little batter.
As we moved away from the canal and onto the watermeadows Kat showed us the important difference between hemlock (which is extremely poisonous) and cow parsley.
She then showed us broadleaved plantains growing in the meadow grass. We have a smaller version of these growing in our back garden lawn. And cleavers/goosegrass/stickyweed which can be gently steamed in a little butter when young (before the seeds appear)
Dandelions are another one everyone will easily recognise. All parts of the plant are edible apart from the seeds. I remember spending a whole day collecting the flowers as a child for my dad to make dandelion wine. Another of the foragers told us of a recipe for dandelion marmalade. The young leaves can be used in salads.
We had a look at some young himalayan balsam plants emerging near the river. These are an invasisve species so are being removed in many places. You can help stop them spreading by collecting the seeds in late summer (shaking into a plastic bag as the seed pods explode) . Adele Nozedar’s book mentioned at the end has recipes for Himalayan Seed Curry and Himalayan Balsam Seed Rissoles . You can also just eat the seeds as they are, and can also eat the leaves and stems. The stems are apparently a little like rhubarb although as we always have a surfeit of actual rhubarb in the garden I have never felt the need to try.
Kat also showed us tansy which is antibacterial ( and tasted so) and common hogweed. The young unfurled leaves and flower heads of the common hogweed can be cooked gently like asparagus. This plant should not be eaten raw. It is important to be sure you have correctly identified common hogweed as the larger giant hogweed is poisonous.
We finished up our walk with a taste from a large thistle – Kat cut and trimmed pieces of the stalk for us to sample. And it was surprisingly tasty – I would say a little like celery.
We then made our way back to the pub for a quiz on what we had learnt that morning – with the prize of a lovely pot of jack-by the hedge pesto made by Kat – which I am looking forward to using this week .
This walk really helped me, giving me the confidence to try some plants I knew were edible but was not so confident about identifying and also showing me some I was unfamiliar with. A top tip for me was the fact that pesticides cannot be sprayed close to waterways which makes the river and canal edges a great place for foraging ( although as they are also popular places for dog walkers, try to avoid the spots dogs are likely to wee or be sure to well wash/cook your finds).
Disclaimer and additional references:
This is a brief overview so please do not rely on my images for identification purposes, or rely on this information for the appropriate use of each plant – be sure to check with someone who knows or if using books and online images use several sources to be sure you have a clear image of any unfamiliar plants and sufficient information on which parts of the plant are edible and how to prepare them. If in doubt don’t eat it.
Information from Kat’s fascinating walk has been supplemented, and my memory refreshed as necessary, by reference to Richard Mabey’s Food for Free. Other useful foraging reference books are Alys Fowler’s the Thrifty Forager and Adele Nozedar’s The Hedgerow Handbook – recipes, remedies and rituals.
A link to Kat’s blog is below. Eat the weeds is also a useful reference site for more information on individual plants
Du zéro déchet à l'écofrugalité. Faire Mieux avec moins ! Une famille qui se sensibilise aux gestes éco-citoyens et qui cherche à réduire son empreinte sur l'environnement par la réduction de ses déchets, la recherche d'économie d'énergie, de l'anti-gaspi ... Changer ses habitudes pour protéger son environnement : c'est possible!