Wild Raspberry Jam

This is a really easy recipe for wild raspberry jam. It takes just 12 minutes to cook and it tastes delicious. Also uses half the sugar of many other regular jams.

Ingredients
1 pint of wild raspberries
1/2 pint of sugar
2 jam jars (sterilised)

Directions
Put a small saucer into the freezer compartment of your fridge. Measure the raspberries into a measuring jug with the sugar. You should have half the amount of sugar to berries assuming the berries are pressed in tightly.

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Put into a heavy bottomed sauce pan, gently mash the berries with a potato masher and leave in a warm place for half an hour. The sugar will have started to dissolve in the juice. Give it a good star to dissolve as much of the sugar as possible.

This ‘cold processing step’ helps the jam to keep as much flavour as possible.

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Put onto the stove and heat on a low-medium heat, stirring to dissolve the last of the sugar.

Bring to a gentle boil. As soon as bubbles appear all over the surface, quickly skim off any froth, then boil for 12 minutes. (If you have increased the quantities you will need longer.)

After 12 minutes remove from the heat, and drop a blob onto your cold saucer (from the freezer). As it cools it should be perfect jam consistency. If not, put back on the heat, boil for a further 2 minutes. Remove from heat and test again.

As soon as it’s ready pour or spoon it into sterilised jam jars. Seal with a sterilised lid. The jam is ready to eat as soon as cooled but will keep, unopened in a cupboard, for six month.

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Rose petal vodka

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Roses are in full bloom at the moment and are an essential ingredient in wild cocktails. Wild rose vodka infusion can be added to crushed raspberries to make forager John Wright’s Pink Pint, but I love to mix it with the deep, sweet berry gins. Added to sloe gin, it elevates it to an other-worldly level. A hint of wild fennel seed or sweet cicely seed vodka can also be added.

You can use any roses but one abundant wild rosé that gives a great taste and colour is this one, Rosa rugosa.
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Very simply, you take any wide necked bottle or jar, insert your rosé petals and cover with vodka. Give it a gentle shake every day or so and leave to infuse for a week or two.
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The colour will leave the petals, leaving them a pale grey. Your infusion will start to turn a deep reddish-brown. After 2 weeks strain off the wild rose vodka, discard the petals and keep it in a brown bottle or dark cupboard as over time, light can change the colour and flavour. Enjoy!

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A mixture of 75% sloe gin and 25% rose vodka with a capful of wild fennel seed vodka makes a lovely twist on a traditional drink.

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Wildflowers of Mallorca

This gallery contains 29 photos.

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Daisy Soup for Dinner Parties

This is a neat ‘magic’ trick to impress your friends at dinner parties. Well… It really is the sort if thing that only a forager would do!

Ingredients
Any soup
Garden daisies

Directions
Pick your daisies in the afternoon after their heads have closed. Toss them in cold water if you feel they really need washing. You’ll need about 5 per guest.

Heat your soup to quite hot, and pour into individual bowls. As your serving the guest, scatter the closed daisy heads into the surface of the soup.

Smile as your guests gasp in amazement as the flower heads open up again before their very eyes!

I’ve always loved playing with my food!

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Grasping the Nettle

You can get a cheery mood and energy boost from nettle leaf and particularly from raw dried nettle seed (technically fruits and seeds), rubbed through a sieve to remove the irritating hairs.

Nettle seedThe ‘feel-good’ factor from eating raw dried nettle fruits/seeds is caused by the neurotransmitters acetylcholine nd serotonin, with choline and histamine also found in uncooked nettle venom. In herbal medicine they are used as an adrenal tonic for people who are burnt-out, run down, fatigued and low in energy, zest for life and libido.

Acetylcholine is the most abundant neurotransmitter in our brains. It stimulates the nervous system (ANS), improving mood and heightening sensory perception, attention span, vigilance and intuition. Acetylcholine disruption may be a primary cause of depression and possibly Alzheimer’s and muscle degeneration.

Serotonin is mainly found in the gut and it also acts on the nervous system (CNS). Its main functions include regulation of mood, appetite, and sleep, and it influences memory and learning. Serotonin in nettle spines causes pain when you pick them! Its abundance in many seeds and fruits may be to stimulate the gut to expel the seeds, and it can cause diarrhoea in quantity.

Nettle seed is used therapeutically both as freshly picked seed and as fresh nettle seed tincture.

Chew 5-20 grams of fresh green nettle seed well, as a refreshing stimulant. You can take 1 to 2 tablespoons a day. Some people experiment with nettle seed for recreation but we advise not exceeding this amount.

Be careful too, if you boil fresh nettle fruit/seed in a ratio of 1:12 (eg 50 grams fruit/seed to 600 ml of water), a large wineglassful (250ml) may keep you wide awake for 12-36 hours!

Nettle seed also tastes delicious toasted and can be used instead of poppy seed in crackers, bread and sprinkled with chopped nuts into salads.

Urtification

Incidentally, the prescence of acetylcholine in nettle venom may well explain why the ancient practice of urtification (whipping with nettles for pain relief) works! Anything which increases the presence of acetylcholine in the synaptic space is found to produce analgesia. Benzodiazepines for example act as analgesics through their action of enhancing acetylcholine release.

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How to pickle Ash Keys

Make a pickling vinegar by heating – in a Bain Marie – all your favourite spices with one spoon of soft brown sugar and a pinch of salt per cup of cider vinegar. Infuse for 5 minutes then leave to cool. Strain it before using it.

Ideas for spices include: peppercorns, ginger, cinnamon, chillies, cloves, bay leaf, coriander seed… Or use wild spices like hogweed seed, ground elder seed, wild leek seed… See my wild spice chart here.

Pick the ash keys when they are really, really young and green. As early as possible or they get stringy.

Put the ash keys into boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove and change water. Simmer in new water for 5 minutes. Strain. Cool a little.

Pack the cooled keys into preserving jars leaving a 3 cm (an inch) of space at the top. Fill with your spiced vinegar right to the top.

Seal. Leave for 3 months. Eat!

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Wild Labneh Roule Cream Cheese

Recipe for a delicious ‘cream cheese’ substitute

This is a very simple way to make a cream cheese replacement for those lovely soft herby French cream cheeses called roule. It’s not a real cheese as nothing is added to separate the curds and whey but it’s a close call!

Ingredients
1 small pot of good quality plain organic yoghurt
4-5 wild garlic stems
4 new green ground elder leaves
6 small sorrel leaves
Salt and pepper

Directions
Put a colander or sieve to stand over a bowl. Line with a pieve of cheesecloth folded to give 3 layers. Spoon the yoghurt onto the cheesecloth and cover with a saucepan lid or piece of tin foil. Leave to drain for 24 hours.

After 24 hours the whey should have drained off (use it in a soup or sauce), and the yoghurt should have thickened to a cream cheese consistency. This is called labneh.

Very, very finely chop the wild greens. Put in a bowl with the labneh and fold the wild greens in with a fork. Add some salt and pepper, forking it in until the taste is to your liking. Remove and mould into a ball or log. This will keep for a week or two in the fridge – if you haven’t eaten it long before then!

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Sweet Woodruff May Wine

How to make German May Wine
using Sweet Woodruff

Sweet WoodruffIn Germany, the first of May was traditionally celebrated with this delightful sparkling Maiwein drink, infused with sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) a member of the same family as cleavers (Galium aparine) and lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum).

Like many plants it contains coumarins which smell somewhat like new mown hay. Sweet woodruff has little smell until you dry it, when it is transformed by an amazing sweet, vanilla smelling scent. Last year I hung a bunch in my car and it made the best car air freshener ever! In the Middle Ages it was used for scenting floors, mixed in with the straw.

One side note about coumarins – large doses can make you feel a bit nauseous so May Wine is for lightly imbibing or you’ll end up with a terrific hangover! Studies of coumarin in sweet woodruff recommend you do not exceed 3.5 grams fresh woodruff per litre of wine. This recipe makes 2 litres, so to keep within recommended safe levels weigh your sweet woodruff and use no more than 7 grams. At the stage that I pick it, 1 sprig is approximately 1 gram.

Ingredients
7 springs of fresh sweet woodruff
1 bottle of light white wine (German Reisling)
1 bottle of sparkling wine (Prosecco, Sekt, champagne)
(Or for a less alcoholic version, 1 bottle of soda water)
1 punnet strawberries (quartered)

Directions
Pour the white wine into a jug over the sprigs of sweet woodruff and leave overnight. The next day, add the sparkling wine or soda (slowly!) and pour into glasses over the chopped strawberries. Garnish with sprigs of sweet woodruff or edible flowers such as violets, daisies or primroses.

If you can only get dried sweet woodruff, use 1/2 cup of organic dried herb and only infuse for 1 hour (2 at the most). Strain out the herb, then add the sparkling wine or soda.

Wild Variation
Use little wild strawberries if you can find them (not in Scotland at this time of year).

Alternatively you can use rhubarb or Japanese knotweed. In this case, simmer 500ml of chopped rhubarb or knotweed with 50 grams of sugar until it is extremely soft. Add to the infused wine before you add the sparkling wine and give it a good stir. Strain the wine to remove the woodruff and rhubarb/knotweed pulp. Then return to the jug and add the sparkling wine or soda. Pour into chilled glasses and decorate with edible flowers.

Remember if foraging for Japanese knotweed to trim the plant on site and do not disperse any part of it away from the site. Make sure everything you bring home goes into the saucepan. This is because even small trimmings will grow. It is illegal to cause Japanese knotweed to grow and spread, as it is an invasive, controlled plant!

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Nettle & Wild Garlic Soup

How to make Nettle and Wild Garlic Soup.
A classic!

Serves 6-8

Nettle and Wild Garlic SoupNettle tips are delicious in the Spring and early summer although they shouldn’t be eaten once they grow rough and start to flower as they can be irritating then. They are incredible good source of iron, calcium, silica, other minerals, vitamins and a very rich source of plant protein, not to mention fibre! Traditionally they are used to condition hair and make it strong and glossy (both humans and horses), to make bones and nails strong and strengthen chicken egg shells.

Ingredients
500g nettle tops (half a carrier bag)
100g 2 handfuls of wild garlic (any part of the plant)
1 large onion (finely chopped)
1 potato (peeled and diced)
1 heaped tablespoon dried mushroom powder (any edible bolete)
1 length of dried kelp
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce (optional)
Salt
Pepper
Good quality olive oil
2 litres hot water

Directions
Rinse the nettle tops in a colander and put aside. Rinse the wild garlic leaves (including buds and flower if you have – leaving a few aside for decoration) and chop roughly. I pick the nettle tops with scissors, snipping them off them using the scissors as tweezers – it’s really quite fast and I am still a bit of a nettle coward!

Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped onion. Sweat for 5 minutes until starting to soften. Add the diced potato and stir. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the seasoning, then the nettles and the wild garlic.

Add 2 litres of hot water and the kelp, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

Take off the heat and cool. Remove the kelp. Adjust the seasoning. When cool, use a stick blender to fully liquidise the soup. Or pour into a blender, liquidise and then return to the pan.

For an absolute taste revolution, add some freshly made horseradish cream. A large tablespoon stirred into the pot is completely mind blowing!

Reheat and serve.

Nettle

This is a quite a rich soup and fairly thick. You may need to add extra liquid when you reheat it. Decorate it by dribbling over a little cream or chilli oil (although not chilli with the horseradish!) and adding a few open wild garlic flowers or a bud!

 

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Cleavers and Red Pepper Soup

How to make Cleavers and Red Pepper Soup

Serves 6

http://monicawilde.com/?attachment_id=1816Cleavers, also known as clivers, goosegrass or sticky willies, is a great diet food. John Gerard, a 16th century herbalist, quotes Pliny saying ‘A pottage made of Cleavers is good to cause lankness and keepe from fatnesse.’ It is diuretic and particularly good for the lymphatic system. It is also a really good blood purifier, used by herbalists to clear up skin problems.

The tips of the plant are tender in the Spring – they can be added to salads at this stage – but their quickly lose their palatability due to the rough texture (like sandpaper) that develops. This is a shame because it is a really healthy plant to eat. I often juice it in my wheatgrass juicer and it tastes fantastic added to pear and ginger. But I also love it in soups, especially when trying to lose a few winter pounds in the Spring.

Ingredients
100g cleavers tops (roots trimmed away)
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
2 medium size onions (finely chopped)
2 red peppers (I like the long Romano ones)
1 x 400g can organic plum tomatoes
50ml elderberry pontack (or Lea & Perrins)
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce (Encona or Tabasco)
Toasted seaweed (nori or dulse)
Salt
Pepper
Good quality olive oil
1.5 litres hot water

Directions
Rinse the bundle of cleavers and cut off the roots. If you have picked it carefully, you’ll have all the roots end to end and can cut them all off with one pass of the scissors. If not, it may take you a while!

Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped garlic and onions. Sweat for 5 minutes until starting to soften. Add the roughly chopped red peppers and stir. Hold the bunch of cleavers over the pan and using scissors, cut into the pan in 1-2 cm lengths. This prevents the stems wrapping themselves around your stick blender later on! Cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add 1.5 litres of hot water and all the seasonings. Simmer for 15 minutes until the peppers are tender.

Take off the heat and cool. Adjust the seasoning. When cool, use a stick blender to fully liquidise the soup. Or pour into a blender, liquidise and then return to the pan.

Reheat and serve. Finely chop some wild garlic or chives as a garnish.

Cleavers

Cleavers just at the picking stage.

This is a low-fat soup and does not contain potatoes or flour to thicken it. If you’re not dieting you might like to add a little creme fraiche or crumbled feta cheese but it’s delicious without it!

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