By Sarah Davis.
It might be wet and dull out there but signs of new life are braving an appearance and little gems are emerging to cheer up the gloom. Among them, some early primroses, hazel catkins as well as lush nettle tips and of course the beautiful snowdrops and daffodils brightening up dark corners. You might spot the broad green leaves of wild garlic around now and the heart shaped ones of violets. In coastal areas alexanders are issuing forth their lime green shoots. Spending even a small amount of time observing these vital developments; the variety of shapes, colour tones and textures can be wonderfully restorative and the sensory experience of foraging for some of these goodies followed by creating something tasty to eat provides nourishment to both the body and soul.
If you’re new to foraging I can thoroughly recommend starting with nettles as they are commonly found (you may have them growing in your garden), easy to identify, and highly nutritious offering among other things, a great source of non-heme iron. They are also very versatile being used for making cord, tea, beer, herbal medicines, liquid plant feed, attracting wildlife, or as a vegetable in it’s own right – what a wonderful gift from nature! There are many ways to consume nettles, soup and tea probably being the most common but if you’re feeling a little more adventurous how about trying nettle pakoras or adding a handful of wilted leaves to a quiche. Below is the nettle pakoras recipe. If spice isn’t your thing you could swap those for mixed herbs instead. Pick the nettle tops as they are the most tender and remember to use stout gloves if you’d rather not get stung! You can substitute other edible wild greens if you prefer (please refer to a good relevant guide book when foraging).
Makes approximately 10-12
• 1 cup gram (chickpea) flour
• 1.5 tsp curry powder or cumin or other spices of your choice
• ½ tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp salt, or to taste
• Big pinch of chilli powder (optional)
• 2 cups foraged nettle tops
• 2 tbsp finely chopped onions
• Oil to cook
• Pick over and wash the nettle tops, removing any tough stalks
• Blanche in a bowl with hot water (to remove the sting)
• Remove the nettles from the water and finely chop
• Mix the dry ingredients together
• Add the greens and onion
• Mix to a very thick batter – there may be enough moisture in the nettles for this but if it’s too dry add a very little of the nettle blanching water to the mix.
• Heat ½ – 1 cm oil in a pan over a medium heat
• Dollop dessert spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil and cook for about 4-5mins until golden brown underneath.
• Turn over and squash down a little with the back of a spoon and cook the second side until golden.
• Remove from the pan onto a kitchen towel-lined plate.
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