Go Absolutely Wild this Burn’s Night!

You’re invited to a Burns Supper with a wild twist. On Saturday 23 January (2016) I’ll be holding a foraged Wild Burns Supper. Tickets are available for just 12 people – an intimate dinner with myself (the Head Cook) and Bumble (of Bumble Puddings). We’ll be following the traditional Burn’s Night ‘Order of the Supper’ but with a wild food and fungi theme.


O R D E R   O F   T H E   S U P P E R

Seabucks fizz

Wild mushroom pâté with seaweed oat biscuits

Pheasant cock-a-weedie-leekie soup

Venison haggis, wild roots and tatties
(such as caramelised, roasted dandelion root with wild wintergreens too)

Sloe typsy sea laird
(sloe and damson gin trifle with caragheen custard and cream)



Venue: Achnabreck Farmhouse, Lochgilphead, West Argyll
Date: 23 January 2016. 18:30 for 19:00
Dress: Wild or fabulous
Cost: £26.50 per person
Bring your own bottles of wine and alcohol

BOOK HERE for the dinner.

Accommodation is also available including breakfast at the farmhouse if you’d like to avoid drink driving and explore beautiful west Argyll over the weekend.

Book Room One £40.00
Large double room for 2 adults

Book Room Two £40.00
Large double room for 2 adults

Book Room Three £30.00
Small double room with narrow double bed for 1 adult (or 2 very thin and loved up adults)

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Pin It
Posted in Workshops | 2 Comments

January: Fasting on wild calories

“New Year, New You” the advertisers tell us. It’s time to do a detox. The magazines are full of it from both those who believe we should do it and those who believe it is all a commercial myth. So let’s leave the twenty-first century for a minute and imagine what was going on in our foraging past – in our wild state.

Those of us who were going to survive the winter would have worked hard in the autumn. We collected lots of nuts – Scottish Neolithic archaeological sites turn up mounds of hazel nut shells – and probably some primitive grass grains to store up and help us through the winter.

Dandelion Roots

During the winter we’d have found shelter – possibly in caves but more probably in primitive shelters created in the forests among the warmth of the trees.

We’d have hunted deer, rabbits and other non-hibernating animals and dug up roots such as dandelion, wild burdock, wild carrot, etc. when the ground wasn’t frozen. The dandelion roots shown on the left are delicious roasted and I often add them to a dish of roast parsnips or carrots. From what was available, our winter diet would have been primarily protein, fats and carbohydrates.

In January we wouldn’t have been eating fruit as by now all the bilberries, blackberries, rosehips would have been eaten by us and the birds. So none of our calories would have come from sugar, even fructose (fruit sugar). If we were very lucky, we might find some late berries, such as these vivid orange sea buckthorn berries which can often still be found after Christmas, but they are sharp and sour although bursting with vitamin C with an antioxidant profile not far off acai berry!

Sea buckthorn berries

We would have found very small amounts of greens, small patches of bittercress, wintercress, wood sorrel, dandelion leaves and maybe some chickweed in a sheltered spot. But nothing in abundance. (Interestingly, the cresses are also very high in vitamin C that prevents scurvy.) During the winter the oceans are stormy so it’s hard to catch fish although the seaweeds are starting to make an appearance as their Spring is earlier than the land plants.

We wouldn’t have gone far from our shelters as this used up calories, a dangerous game unless you were sure of a meal at the end of the trip. So we would probably have spent a lot of time in the shelters, cuddled up, restricting the amount of calories we burned off.

Rabbit skin glovesSo January and February are the hungry gap. When we would naturally have had a calorie restricted diet. This would not necessarily been every day but through intermittant fasting similar to the alternate day fasting protocols of today. If an animal was killed we would have feasted for a few days and used every part of it (like these rabbit skin mittens I made). If the ground thawed during a warm spell we’d have dug up roots and feasted. But these occasions would have been followed by days, or weeks of very little.

Medical research nowadays shows that intermittant fasting is actually good for us. It helps to protect our cells against age-related diseases, improves heart health in the same way as aerobic exercise does, improves brain health (the brain is the only organ that doesn’t shrink in size during prolonged fasting as we need our wits about us).

So this January and February, if you want to control your weight and your health, reduce the calories you eat with some alternate day fasting but don’t completely starve yourself of fats and carbohydrates on the days that you do eat, at this time of the year.

Spring leavesCome Spring the plants burst into leaf again, and when you forage you’ll notice that you naturally enter a Spring Detox phase. All the new growth: cleavers, dandelion, thistle stems, nettle, etc., are either diuretic, mildly laxative or lymphatic cleansers. Nature’s new growth stimulates the digestive system and awaken our bodies as we change our diets away from winter fare and stop eating carbohydrates. What sensible forager would dig up a root when it was providing fresh salad vegetables?


Join me on a foraging walk in the Spring to reboot after the winter and discover a world packed full of amazing tastes and natural health.


VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Posted in Wild Nutrition Facts | Leave a comment

Pineapple weed jelly recipe 

Pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea) is a member of the same family as chamomile and can be used in much the same way both with culinary and medicinal uses. It can be found at the entrance to virtually every farm field I have ever encountered! And, it does taste strongly of pineapple with a hint of chamomile. It makes a great liqueur and this lovely jelly. When you’re picking remember that the higher the flower to leaves ratio, the sweeter the end result will be.

Serves 4

1 large double handful pineapple weed tops
500ml water
1 sachet (12g) gelatine
1 tbsp sugar or honey (optional)
1 tub coconut yoghurt (optional)

Cover the pineapple tops with the water and simmer on a very low heat for 15 minutes with the lid of your saucepan firmly on to prevent the loss of volatile oils. If you have a sweet tooth, you can also dissolve a tablespoon of sugar or some honey in too at this point.

After 15 minutes remove from the heat and, keeping the lid on, leave to infuse for a further 15 minutes. Now strain off the leaves and return the pineapple weed ‘tea’ to the pot and gently reheat.

Take 1 ladle (50ml) of warm tea out and put in a jug. Sprinkle the gelatine over it and whisk it in until smooth.

Now add the contents of the jug back into the saucepan and whisk until the jelly starts to thicken at about 70C (do not boil).

Pour into 4 jelly or small wine glasses then leave to cool and set firm in the fridge.

Top with a little coconut yoghurt for a tropical twist!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Posted in Wild Medicine Info | Leave a comment

Meadow Woundwort in the Field!

Recently I got bitten yet again. Not by horseflies this time, but some mosquitoes. Sadly I reacted in just the same way. About 27 years ago, I was bitten by a large centipede while living in the West Indies – the joke shop kind, huge and shiny – and had an awful infection with my entire arm swelling up, resulting in minor surgery to drain it. Ever since then some (previously tolerated) insects can give me the most awful bites. These mosquitoes, that waylaid me during an evening foraging walk, weren’t even very big. However by the next morning my calf (2 bites) was massively swollen and I also had a huge lump on my forearm that looked like a second elbow! And, as with horseflies bites, I felt fluey, weak and the pain was intense.

My normal treatment is a blend of nettle, chickweed and wood betony tinctures taken internally with chickweed tincture held against the bites with a gauze pad. But this time, there was none in the house. Chickweed I could pick down by the old shed where it likes to grow – it is a cooling, soothing herb used where there is heat and redness in the body (eczema, nappy rash, etc.). Nettles I could also pick – they trigger the body to produce antihistamine so are great for allergic reactions, hay fever and eczema outbreaks. But wood betony (Stachys officinalis) – for the pain – I had no idea.

A friend of mine thought he’d seen viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare) growing near a local stream and, as this is used to treat poisonous bites, I thought I’d go and look for some. However, there was none there. Walking back though I spied some marsh woundwort growing among the swamp grass.

Marsh woundwort is Stachy palustris and so related to wood betony (Stachy officinalis). By this time my leg was so painful it was a struggle to walk, so I collected about 8 of the plants and set off home where I cut the top two thirds into a saucepan, covered them with water, brought it all to the boil and simmered it for five minutes.

Marsh woundwort has quite a strong unpleasant smell so I was surprised how tasty the tea was. Very similar to the taste of nettle – mind you, its relative hedge woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) is sometimes called hedge nettle. I put a touch of honey in and drank a mugful. I also soaked some gauze pads in cold woundwort tea and wrapped them into place with a gauze bandage. Within 15 minutes of drinking the first mug, the pain started to abate and the swelling lessened. The effect lasts for about 5 hours between mugs.

So I can truly recommend marsh woundwort tea for managing pain and allergic reactions with inflammation.

In medieval times, it was considered one of the most valuable herbs. Used directly on wounds as a poultice to heal them, as an ointment for grout and joint pain, and also used internally for cramp and vertigo as well as internal bleeding (haemorrhages, dysentery, etc.). Modern herbalists use it for its antispasmodic properties to treat painful cramps such as menstrual cramps. Like betony, it probably has a sedative effect on the central nervous system and is useful for managing pain. Likely alkaloids are betonicine, stachydrine and trigonelline.

There is a lot of research on stachydrine. It has cardio protective benefits but has also been found to prevent the deterioration of endothelial cells (the cells that line our blood vessels and lymph system) caused by high-blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Trigonelline has been identified as a potential anti diabetic treatment (Rios et al., 2015). Trigonelline also protects cells from H2O2 damage and could be useful for treatment of oxidative stress mediated cardiovascular diseases in future (Ilavenil et al., 2015).

And did I mention that you can eat the tubers?!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
Posted in Wild Medicine Info | Leave a comment

Seaweed Oatcakes Recipe

These are delicious and so, so good for you being a vital source of iodine. Even people who “don’t like seaweed” love these savoury oatcakes. But a word of warning: once you’ve tasted seaweed oatcakes you can never go back to plain ones! The amount here is enough to feed a party or make them for a family for week. Halve or quarter the quantities if you prefer. Store them in an airtight container, they keep well.

500g porridge oats (whole)
500g porridge oats (ground in your blender)
100g powdered seaweed
10g salt
10g ground black pepper
2-3g fine chili flakes
20g mushroom powder
50g sesame seeds
50g caraway seeds
300g coconut oil
500-600 ml warm water

Heat the oven to 190C. Mix all the dry ingredients in together in a large bowl. Rub in the coconut oil until well distributed. Then add 500ml of the water and knead into a dough ball. Add the other 100ml bit by bit if the mixture is still a little dry.

Roll out in small amounts (a handful at a time) on an oat-floured chopping board until 1 or 2 mm thick. Cut into circles with a cookie cutter and put into baking trays lined with grease proof paper.

Bake at 190C for 15-20 until just starting to brown. If you have several trays in the oven at once, this could take 30 minutes.

Once baked through and browned put into a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy on their own, or with cheese or a dip.

Notes on the ingredients:

Seaweed: The batch in the picture above used dabberlocks seaweed (below). I reconstituted a little in warm water then finely chopped it and added it in. You can also use dulse, pepper dulse, laver – indeed any edible seaweed.

Mushroom powder: I use Boletus species for the best taste. For these I save the precious porcini and use orange or brown birch bolete powder.

Seeds: I have listed seeds you can easily buy. I also use black nigella, nettle seed, ground elder seed, wild carrot seed and pignut seed

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 3.7/5 (3 votes cast)
Posted in All Recipes, Wild Food Recipes | Leave a comment

Is Common Hogweed Poisonous?

Common hogweed is not poisonous. It’s also not to be confused with giant hogweed which has very high levels of furanocoumarins in the sap, and contact with it can give you severe phototoxic burns. It is commonly confused and misreported and a Google search can result in a lot of erroneous information. By and large, common hogweed is safe and perfectly edible under ‘normal’ conditions.

There are reports of people using a strimmer who have experienced burns from triggering production of the irritating sap. I was also intrigued by my friend Robin Harford‘s report of another (his seventh) common hogweed allergic reaction reported to him in Devon. So I decided to look at the plant’s biochemistry and research literature to see under what conditions common hogweed could be dangerous, if at all.

I have 3 acres in Scotland dominated by hogweed and handle it a lot albeit with the respect that I handle all large plants. In all the years that I have taught foraging, I have never known anyone have a hogweed allergy. It also has a long medicinal use in mainland Europe.  I have also eaten it for years: leaf shoots, flower buds, use the seeds as a spice and the root as a tincture and flavouring. Earlier this year it was served to 50 people at a dinner I attended and I know other people who eat it every year.

My friend Mark Williams, also a foraging tutor,  says “I have now fed it (well fried, almost to caramelisation) to several hundred people with no adverse reactions reported. In fact I’ve had more people not get on with chanterelles than common hogweed. I did have one experienced forager at the weekend who declined to taste the seeds, having experienced some tingling in his mouth from tasting them in the past. I wonder if the effect may be cumulative in some people. I eat loads and haven’t developed any reaction”.

So is common hogweed actually dangerous?

Firstly, I do point out to people on my courses that any one can be allergic to anything and that celery – also an Umbillifer – is the leading cause of food allergy in Europe. So I have spent some time reading research on celery and parsnip allergies, furanocoumarins and other exciting stuff. Here are my thoughts based on the research papers I have read.

The plant biochemical laboratory

Furanocoumarins are the biochemicals made by plants in the Apiaceae ‘celery family’. High concentrations are responsible for phytotoxicity. They are most concentrated in the plant’s roots and fruits. In the green parts, psoralen has also been found to be most concentrated in the plant’s stem skin. There are quite a few different types:

  • Roots > Bergapten, pimpinellin, isopimpinellin, sphodin.
  • Fruits > Bergapten, isopimpinellin, phellopterin, xanthtoxin, heraclenin, imperatorin, byakangelikol, byangelicin)

What causes high furanocoumarin levels?

In some plants, like giant hogweed, furanocoumarin chemicals are always high as a form of defence. In plant’s like celery and common hogweed the levels can vary. If the levels rise, then problems occur for humans. So why causes furanocoumarin strength?

Psoralens are linear furanocoumarins that are believed to be the phytoalexins associated with Apiacae resistance to pathogens. Pathogens are microorganisms that cause disease or illness. They included bacterium and viruses like the carrot mosaic virus that is found in areas of intensive farming. (Carrots are also members of the Apiacae family.)

The phytoalexin response varies and increases, as a defence mechanism, when subjected to various environmental stress factors. These include fungal infection, copper sulphate (used in a lot of chemical sprays), UV light (England is certainly much sunnier than Scotland) and low temperatures. (For example, frozen parsnips have a much higher psoralen content than fresh parsnips).

Mechanical damage, that occurs during harvesting and storage, has also been shown to increase psoralen concentration by over 45 times. Celery allergies often develop in grocery workers who handle celery, especially celery that has been bred to be pathogen resistant (and therefore high in psoralens).

Celery allergy – Europe’s No 1 food allergy

Allergenic proteins associated with oral allergy syndrome (OAS) are usually destroyed by cooking. However this is not the case with celery, which may cause a reaction even after being cooked.

I believe that common hogweed allergy really is a classic celery allergy being found in people not usually experiencing a celery allergy. If the furanocoumarins in some of the common hogweed plants reach higher than normal levels – increased by UVA light, pathogen attack or mechanical damage – and exceed the levels found in shop-bought celery, then the allergy will be triggered.

Why are allergies on the increase?

Interestingly, a lot of the problems with celery nowadays (a 4 fold increase in the last 20 years). One reason is that, by selectively breeding the plants to be more resistant to insects as fungi, man has raised the furanocoumarin content in celery to levels which now trigger the allergy in people who didn’t get it before. There are studies comparing people handling different strains of celery which prove this perfectly.

Who is particularly susceptible?

Although anyone could theoretically get a phototoxic injury from sap high in furanocoumarins, during normal consumption of celery (and I believe common hogweed) only those with a celery species allergy or the predeterminant qualifying factors (family atopy, recent UVA exposure, 3 pollen sensitives, etc) are likely to ever experience OAS mouth symptoms.

People with allergies to alder, birch or mugwort pollen are more likely to become allergic to celery. Typically the sufferer is already likely to have experienced hay fever, asthma, allergies or eczema. with a family history of them also. Many people have no idea that they have OAS until swelling, tingling or pain develops while eating certain foods.

There is also evidence that there are more allergy and hay fever sufferers down south as the south experiences higher pollen counts and airborne pollutants.

Sun tans and psoralen don’t mix!

It has also be found in some studies, that people who have already recently been exposed to sunlight (tanning beds or sunny spells) can react to psoralens when they have not previously reacted to them before. It has also been found that people with fairer, less pigmented skin (e.g. Skin Type I and II) are more prone to reactions than those with dark, pigmented skin.

The plants in the south of the British Isles are exposed to more sunlight (and possibly a greater intensity of sunlight than in Scotland). Also people living in the south are more exposed to sunlight. So if you have just got yourself a sun tan, you can theoretically increase your chances of having a reaction.

So it is logical to assume that both the common hogweed plant is variable and the foraging person is variable. The former as to psoralen content, the latter as to a predisposition to allergy.

Cross breeding?

Heracleum, is a far wider genus than possibly suspected. The European invasive species with known phytophototoxicity include giant hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum, Sosnowski’s hogweed Heracleum sosnowskyi (not yet recorded in UK) and Persian hogweed Heracleum persicum (possibly in the UK). (H. mantegazzianum is less shade tolerant than H. sosnowskyi.) Species of the genus Heracleum can hybridize causing confusing in species identification. There is also the possibility for some people of confusing the plant (before flowering) with Wild Parsnip Pastinaca saliva. The native European hogweeds are common hogweed Heracleum sphondylium and Siberian cow pasrnip Heracleum sibiricum and further to that there are at least eight known hybrids but without distribution detail:

  • Heracleum sphondylium subsp. chloranthum (Borbás) Neumayer
  • Heracleum sphondylium subsp. elegans (Crantz) Schübl. & G. Martens
  • Heracleum sphondylium subsp. glabrum (Huth) Holub
  • Heracleum sphondylium subsp. orsinii (Guss.) H. Neumayer
  • Heracleum sphondylium subsp. pyrenaicum (Lam.) Bonnier & Layens
  • Heracleum sphondylium subsp. sibiricum (L.) Simonk.
  • Heracleum sphondylium subsp. sphondylium
  • Heracleum sphondylium subsp. trachycarpum (Soják) Holub

Wear protective clothing when strimming

Common hogweed is variable in sap phototoxicity with the most cases of phytophototoxicity reports coming from people who have attacked it with a strimmer.

As you read earlier, mechanical damage causes a phytoalexin (furanocoumarin precursor) response triggering the production of phototoxic sap, so a strimmer is a fairly fatal device and will set off the production of furanocoumarins in double quick time!

Basically when we launch an attack on the plant, the plant fights back to protect itself. So as with any fight, put on your armour before going into battle. Even strimming nettles can result in minor burn spots with semi-permanent staining.

Personally speaking…

I will continue to eat common hogweed and teach responsible harvesting until celery and parsnips are banned from sale!

Other hogweedy posts:

Delicious hogweed tempura

Common Hogweed: A taste like no other

Edible wild spice conversion chart

Spiced Chaga and Elderberry Tea

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.2/5 (5 votes cast)
Posted in Wild Medicine Info | Leave a comment

Monkshood (Wolfsbane) poisoning

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) also called Wolfsbane, is pictured here growing in a hawthorn bush. This is a very poisonous plant. Aconitine, mesaconitine, hypaconitine and other alkaloids have potent cardiotoxins and neurotoxins found in all parts of the Aconitum species, especially in the tubers and roots.  The Latin name Aconite comes from the Greek ἀκόνιτον which means “without dust” and “without struggle”. It was used as a poison for arrow heads when hunting wolves (hence wolfsbane) and, as it is so fast acting, probably had then falling in the dust without a struggle

The neurotoxins, aconitine and mesaconitine can be absorbed through the skin and cause severe respiratory and cardiac problems. So do not pick or handle this plant without gloves, especially by the root.

Common signs of monkshood poisoning include tingling, tongue and mouth go numb, nausea with vomiting, breathing becomes harder and laboured, pulse and heartbeat become weak and irregular, skin is cold and clammy.

Patients with internal Aconitum poisoning will have cardiovascular (slows and stops the heart), neurological (pain, convulsions, paralysis), gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea and vomiting) and there are often other signs (for example, confusion and mania can occur if the alkaloids reach the brain). Multiple organ failure is likely. In autopsies, Aconitum alkaloid levels are found to be highest in the liver and kidneys, and lower in the heart and cerebrum, the latter having lower levels than the blood (Niitsu et al, 2012). The attached charts show the distribution of alkaloids in the organs at autopsy.

The estimated lethal dose is 2 mg of aconitine, 5 ml of aconite tincture and 1 g of the raw aconite plant (Chan, 2012; Qin et al., 2012). A 2mg dose of aconitine can cause death within 4 hours. Luckily cases of fatal monkshood poisoning are rare as it tastes foul and bitter and would quickly be spat out.

There is no known antidote.

As well as the already mentioned toxins aconitine, mesaconitine and hypaconitine, poisonous monkshood also contains at least a dozen other poisonous compounds, diterpenoid alkaloids, jesaconitine, lycoctonine, neopelline, neoline, benzoylaconines, and aconins. So not a baby to be messed with. Avoid picking a wild bouquet of it to take home!!

One of monkshood’s older common names was Venus’ Chariot so it may have been used in pagan flying ointments. So called “flying ointments” were allegedly used by witches (hence flying on broomsticks (wooden dildos)) where a balm or salve containing a poisonous herb was applied to the skin to control the dose. Sound evidence of this,as you can imagine, is missing. The purpose was to avail the shaman or witch of a dangerous herb’s intoxicants, getting high for visionary or mystical journeys, while avoiding some of the fatal effects. Don’t try this at home as just 2 milligrams of aconitine is lethal. Dangerous games!

Recently (Inquest Report June 2015) there was sad news in the media about the death of Nathan Greenway (7 Sept 2014), a gardener who died of multiple organ failure. He had allegedly brushed past a lot of monkshood (27 August) but had not handled any of it – to anyone’s knowledge. The coroner ruled that his death was due to unexplained causes.

In Nathan’s case, as death occurred some 10 days after developing symptoms, monkshood poisoning was ruled out as monkshood’s fatal effects are usually instantaneous. Also some of the symptoms were not those expected. For example it was reported that he was ‘drenched in sweat’ – was this the clamminess associated with Aconitum poisoning or a viral sweat?

Richard Greenway, Nathan’s father, who investigated and made the connection with monkshood poisoning, thought the plant was to blame. Asmat Mustajab, the histopathologist called for the pre-inquest hearing, also believed that aconitum “more likely than not” played a key role in Nathan’s death

Infuriatingly, the blood samples taken on his admission to hospital were destroyed – despite being labelled ‘To Be Retained’. As aconitines wreak their damage immediately but leave the body within 24 hours, it is theoretically possible that later analysis failed to detect aconitines – especially as they were not being looked for at the time as they thought he might have Ebola or another virus.

Modern intensive care can also keep patients alive for longer even with severe organ damage having been sustained.

I’m not in possession of the full facts and merely speculating from an uniformed position, but I would personally have thought that it was possible for Nathan to have died if he had handled the plants.  He may not have been observed handling them; if he had been working hard and sweating his skin pores would have been open; on a large estate ‘brushing against’ a colony of monkshood (rather than just a plant or two) could have had a cumulative effect; we are not told how long the leaves were in contact with his skin. But I wasn’t there, nor have I seen the inquest report, so in this case we must conclude that Nathan must have died for another reason. My thoughts are very much with the Nathan’s wife, father and family.

Regardless, do be aware of the plant and avoid handling it, especially by the roots. There is clinical evidence not just anecdotal that it can be absorbed by the skin (percutaneous poisoning). One of our @NapiersHerbs Twitter followers reported the following experience: “@RavenPulsar: Once I forgot to wear gloves & picked up a very young plant by the roots – hands went numb… washed hands & was ok thankfully (!)”


Chan, T.Y. (2012). Aconitum alkaloid content and the high toxicity of aconite tincture. Forensic Sci. Int., 222, 1–3
Niitsu et al. (2012). Distribution of Aconitum alkaloids in autopsy cases of aconite poisoning. Forensic Sci Int. 10(227), (1-3):111-7. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2012.10.021.

Qin, Y., Wang, J., Zhao, Y., Shan, L., Li, B.C., Fang, F., Jin, C., & Xiao, X.H. (2012). Establishment of a bioassay for the toxicity evaluation and quality control of Aconitum herbs. J. Hazard. Mater., 199–200, 350–357

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
Posted in Wild Medicine Info | Leave a comment

Traditional Elderflower Cordial


For each litre of water allow 10 large elderflower heads, 1 lemon (grated zest and juice) and 1 tsp citric acid (optional) and 1/2 kilo white sugar. 


Boil the water and pour over the flowers and zest. Leave overnight in a warm place to infuse. 

In the morning strain the liquid off through a scalded piece of muslin placed over a sieve into a saucepan. Add the lemon juice and sugar. 

Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. then turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Boil rapidly for 3 minutes exactly then take off the gas. 

Pour, via a funnel, into sterilised bottles. Seal with a sterilised cap and leave to cool. 

Dilute the cordial with water or fizzy water to serve. 


I have experimented with lower amounts of sugar but less than 250g/litre and it doesn’t keep well. This gives a less sweet cordial that is not as syrupy. 

There is also a recipe for Meadowsweet Cordial and a video 

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
Posted in All Recipes, Wild Booze recipes | Leave a comment

Salad Dressing – The Secret to a High Veg Diet

To be healthy, slim and feel full of energy and vitality you need to really review the type of fuel (food) that you’re running on. It’s common sense. Garbage in, garbage out. Great food in, great results.

I recommend a very high vegetable diet. It’s not just that I know the results work, not just for me and my chubby genes, but for many people I’ve advised on reversing chronic health problems at Napiers the Herbalists. And the science is slowly and surely catching up. Having your 5 a day is being reconsidered to having your 7 or 10 a day, out of which most should be vegetables not fruits. Carbohydrates (bread, pasta, potatoes, roots) convert to sugar in the body. They should only be consumed in very small amounts and then only in the cold winter months when the body needs extra fuel.

I always recommend that your plate divides up as follows:
75% vegetables (but not potatoes)
15% protein (fish, wild or grass fed meats, tofu)
5% fats (nuts, seeds, oil)
5% low GI carbs (or if eliminating carbs, more veg).
This is very simplistic as foods cross over into other groups but it works as a visual guide to what the right balance is. Draw these divisions onto a cheap white plate with a ceramic marker pen and fire it in the oven to keep you visually on track!

Home grown and wild salad and vegetables

Home grown and wild salad and vegetables

To change your diet radically, I also suggest that you start with a 3 or 5 day juice reboot. This is when you drink 4-5 glasses of juices (at least 50% vegetable) during the day for 3 to 5 days with only coconut water and herbal teas in between. Done over a long weekend it is easy to manage.

Beetroot, Orange, Kale, Lemon and Ginger Juice

Beetroot, Orange, Kale, Lemon and Ginger Juice

The trick is to buy everything you need at the beginning so that you are organised. The 5 day one is the best because it gives you long enough to really see the results. On day 2 and 3 some people get headaches but these quickly pass. The first few days can be harder as you still get carb cravings. But by Day 5 these have all vanished, freeing you up to really enjoy your new veg-based, vitality diet.

Our gut cannot break down everything we eat on its own. In your gut you have millions of bacteria vital to your body – in fact if you could take them all out they would weigh the same as your brain – and we can’t properly digest our food without the help of these friendly bacteria. But modern living has changed the balance of our microbiome. Research on hunter-gather communities shows that your average city dweller has only 40% of the bacterial variety of a traditional hunter-gatherer with far less of the bacteria species for breaking down plants.

So the first thing your body has to work on is changing that balance. Simplistically… if you’ve had a high carb/sugar diet, your body will have more of those bacteria (lets call them bacteria C), and if you hardly eat any veg you will hardly have any bacteria V (for veg). So if you dramatically change your diet, bacteria C (saying “Where’s ma loaf an tatties gone?!”) will create carb cravings (hunger pangs) while bacteria V will be having to multiply rapidly (Where’s all the veg suddenly coming from? We need reinforcements to get through this lot.”) I recommend the juice reboot with total carb/sugar elimination for 5 days simply because it gets the discomfort over and done with quickly in 5 days. If you get organised, everyone can manage 5 days. Honest!

Once your vegetable intake is high enough, your gut flora changes and those carb cravings vanish, you start to feel full of energy, your skin clears up and your weight drops.. The bacteria settle down in the right quantities and are quietly content. If I get disorganised and I don’t always have enough veg to hand (sadly they go off so need picking/shopping every second day), what happens is that my veg intake drops and then I get carb hunger and break my regime. The carb bacteria C quickly remultiply and then you have to reduce them all over again with the accompanying cravings. So the key is to shop little and often and make sure that the divisions you’ve drawn on your plate are kept to – then the rest is easy. Carbs become an occasional item – hopefully baked yourself so you know what’s in them and they’re good quality carbs.

One common excuse I am given a lot by people is that, try as they might, they don’t ‘like’ vegetables. And by vegetables I mean leaves, shoots, buds and flowers digested by bacteria V – not the starchy carb-filled roots that satisfy bacteria C!

Wild garlic, home grown kale and others

Wild garlic, home grown kale and others

Again, your palette will change once you have been doing this long enough. You will learn to distinguish between your desire for bitter and your desire for sweet, as they are easily confused and there are so many sugar filled temptations to instantly satisfy your desire! Without exception, the key to this rests with a blindingly good salad dressing. This can be poured over any leaf salad, and also used as a dressing for cooked green vegetables. This tangy, tasty, veg-transforming recipe was first given to me by a friend who got it from a friend… and I hope you will also pass it on.

Version 1
50% good quality olive oil
25% light soy sauce
25% freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-2 crushed cloves of fresh garlic
Put all the ingredients together in a bottle or jam jar and shake very well. Keeps for days so make a lot and use liberally over all your salads and veg. I buy my light soy sauce from the Asian section to keep the price under control!

Version 2
50% good quality olive oil
25% light soy sauce
25% infused dark vinegar (e.g. raspberry, elderberry, balsamic)
1-2 crushed cloves of fresh garlic
Small knob grated fresh ginger root
Small sliced fresh chilli pepper
Put all together and shake, shake, shake.

A wild and homegrown Spring salad

A wild and homegrown Spring salad

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Posted in All Recipes, Wild Food Recipes, Wild Nutrition Facts | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Low Gluten Low GI Rye Spelt Bread

I’m pretty gluten or bread-chemical intolerant to white bread these days so I make my own. I think the rise in gluten intolerance is also linked to bread not being allowed to ferment long enough. This can be achieved with a sourdough ferment but not as easily with bakers yeast. But this rye/spelt loaf tastes delicious and doesn’t give us bloat or stomach pains.

500g spelt flour
500g rye flour
10g dried baker’s yeast
10g salt
10g powdered seaweed (e.g. dulse)
200ml goats milk yoghurt
400ml warm water (mixed with yoghurt
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 handfuls assorted seeds

Mix the flours, yeast, salt & seaweed together in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and honey and mix in using the back of a large metal spoon. Then add the liquid, mixing first with the spoon, and eventually getting your (clean) hands in.

Turn out on to a clean floured surface and knead for 10 to 15 minutes. Rye flour does not go stretchy as less gluten but still needs vigorous kneading. sprinkle with flour every now and then if the dough is a little sticky.

Shape into a ball and leave in a warm place in a teatowel covered bowl for an hour – until dough is doubled in size. Then poke the risen dough back down (to deflate it) with your finger tips. Let it rise again, then knock it down. Repeat once more. Now divide into two, take one half and shape it into a loaf (1 kg flour makes 2 loaves) by rolling the dough in and folding the ends under. Repeat.

Brush the top and sides with milk (I use oat milk) to make them sticky then roll them in your seed mixture. Now make 2 or 3  deep, diagonal cuts (about 1 cm deep) in the loaves.

Leave for a final rise on a peel or tray (about 15-20 mins) until when you dent the loaf with your finger it springs back quickly and lightly. While waiting set your fan oven to 200C. On an upper shelf put a really heavy duty baking tray (or put in a tile or baker’s stone when you set the cold oven). On a lower shelf put an empty metal roasting tin to heat.

When the dough is risen and the oven is hot, put the kettle on to boil. Open the oven and quickly slide (or place) the loaves on to the hot baking tray. Then pour boiling water into the roasting tin to about a third up – this is to create steam. Close the oven door and set timer for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes check the loaves. If they are browning too quickly turn the oven down to 180. Return to the oven for another 40 minutes (checking at 30). It should now be a beautiful brown on top and sound hollow when knocked. put on a wite tray to cool. Do not cut it until it is cold. if you give in the dough (which is still cooking inside) will sag and the bread will be doughy on the inside. When cool… slice and enjoy!!

 Above: At final proving stage

Above: Baked and cooling down.   

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Posted in All Recipes | 2 Comments