Our Foraging Adventures Part Two
If there's one good thing about lockdown it's been our newfound love of foraging. I have always wanted to learn about which plants and flowers are edible or that can be used for medicinal purposes but never really had a chance to until now. Nixie is finally old enough to really be interested in it too which has made foraging our new favourite thing to do and already it feels like its become a part of our lifestyle. We are just at the very beginning of learning about which plants are edible and I cannot think of a more satisying thing to do and share with my daughter.
Learning something new together is my favourite thing in the world and I am absolutely loving her enthusiasm and excitement whenever we learn about a new plant and when we discover new things to make. Once she's learned what a plant looks like she is a genius at finding more of them and she loves to put her "owl-eyes" (as she calls them) to the test. She tells anyone she meets that she is a super hero and when people ask which one, she proudly states that she's "Owl Net" which is a her version of owlette from PJ Masks which is a show she no longer really watches.
After our last blog post, Flowers, Foraging & More Flowers where we shared some of the things we made with Dandelions & Lilac we have now foraged some more plants & flowers. The first one was Stinging Nettle which was one that I was really looking forward to experimenting with especially after seeing so many amazing things being made online. After seeing a few people making a lemon and nettle cake I really wanted to have a go at it too. First we needed to go forage for some Nettle leaves & luckily around here they grow in abundance. Make sure you wear gloves, trousers and a longsleeved shirt as well so that you don't get stung. You also want to make sure you only gather the top four to six leaves because the other ones won't be as tasty. Nixie really loved helping cut the leaves even though my gloves were way too big for her, we had actually bought her some child gloves but when they arrived they were utterly useless, if you know of any good gloves for childredn let us know!
When we got home we washed them and then they were ready to be used for baking and I used this recipe from Veggie Desserts but I tried to make it vegan by replacing the eggs with flax eggs and I didn't really like the result, the cake was too dense and I also think I didn't squeeze out the water from the nettles enough so there was a bit too much water in the cake too (like I said we are just learning over here and are by no means proper bakers, if anyone has any tips,please do share!) but we had fun trying and it still tasted good!
With our first batch of Nettles we also made our first set of crisps and these were absolutely delicious. We used this recipe from Craft Invaders which can be adapted using any spices you really love but I highly recommend using Nutritional Yeast, it really adds such a yumminess to it!
Since our first cake didn't turn out to my liking I decided to try again but this time I found a vegan recipe for a lemon cake that I liked the sound of and then just added the Nettles as you would in the above recipe. I decided to go with a Spoonful of Kindness Vegan Lemon Drizzle Cake. This time I was much happier with the results and my one year old, Forrest especially loved it!
On another foraging walk we happened to find some Wild Garlic! and this was very exciting because we had been on the lookout for some but not having much look, we only found a little bit and only grabbed a few so that we had enough to make a very small amount of Pesto and we used this recipe from The Vegan Larder.
We also found some Red Clover which is just starting to come into season and decided to make some jam with it using this recipe from Common Sense Home.
On one of our walks in the forest Nixie actually spotted some Chicken of The Forest! I couldn't quite believe it, I had just mentioned it to her that very morning how amazing it would be if we could find some. Since it was my first time foraging mushrooms I was a little apprehensive and after our first sighting we didn't take any but went home to do more reseacrh and learned that it definitely was Chicken of the Forest. A few days later we went back to see if it was still there and it was! So we grabbed a bit of it and left some for anyone else that might like to try it.
The first time we jsut sauteed it with garlic and sices but I think I overcooked it out of fear and it wasn't that great. But a few days later we went back and got some more and this time we decided to deepfry it and this turnd out delicious! Even Kevin and the kids were a fan. Does it taste like chicken?! Not really but it's really good and is a very satisfying meal. But if you do get lucky and come across the elusive chicken of the forest make sure you eat a little bit of it first to see how your body reacts to it as some people may have a bit of a negative reaction to it. Luckily for us, our bodies are absolutely ok with it.
Lately, I have been spending any spare moments learning about all the things we can forage and when I read that we could make cordial with Gorse flowers I just had to try it especially since Gorse is so abundant around here! Unfortunately I discovered this towards the end of its season and it was a bit harder to find fresh blooms but we did manage to find enough to make our cordial. We had already spent a beautiful day out in the forest with Nixie cycling (she recently learned how to ride her bike without stabilisers and its now her absolute favourite thing to do!) and decided to pick the flowers on our way home. In hindsight this maybe wasn't the best idea because picking Gorse flowers is very time consuming and not something that's easily done quickly with all of the spikes you need to try to avoid. Next time I think I would like to do this solo or just with Nixie and turn it into a meditation of sorts because choosing to do it right before tea time with our youngest, Forrest, who tends to get quite unsettled around that time and especially these days because he's getting his canines was not the best idea I've had! But we did it!
When we got home we made the cordial using this recipe from fforest and it turned out so yummy! We all really loved the taste especially when you drink it with sparkling water.
Just as I was finishing this blog post Nixie came running in from our garden with a handful of Rose petals, I didn't have a chance to stop her so instead I asked her to pick the other two roses so that we could try making a Rose petal jam and oh my gosh this is probably my favourite thing we've made so far! When you first boil the petals, they lose its colour and turn greenish yellow but when you add the lemon the most amazing chemical reaction takes place and restores the roses vivid red! Nixie thought this was super cool as did I! We used the recipe from Jeanie and Lulu's Kitchen
For the past couple of weeks, Kevin (my husband), hasn't been working as he's been furloughed and he's started baking bread daily which has been so amazing so we got to enjoy our new jam with fesh bread from the oven, it doesn't get much better than that!
Before wrapping up this blog post I decided to also have a go at making Hawthorn Blossom Jam using the same recipe as above except for some minor adjustments (I strained out the flowers before adding the sugar and pectin and added even less of the balsamic about 1/8 a teaspoon but would probably leave that out if I made this again). We actually started out wanting to make a syrup using this old 18th century recipe but then half way through I changed my mind and wanted something much simpler and faster to make so went with the jam!
OK so this is a very random thing to add to this post but we just made bathbombs and they were so incredibly easy to make that I thought I might as well share them here too!
1 cup baking soda
1/4 cup Citric Acid
2 tablespoons water
mix together dry ingredients
Add 5 drops or so of lavender essential oil and some food colouring (use gloves for this!) and mix again this time also adding one teaspoon of water at a time.
Put into moulds (we used some silicone heart shaped ones we use for cupcakes)
you can also add little dinosaurs into the moulds so that when you put them into the water you can watch them hatch!
Put into the freezer for an hour or overnight and then use straight away in your next bath!