The last word on foraging


Normal service will resume shortly and this blog will return to its proper subject, walking, rather than lingering on things that you can do while walking, such as foraging enticing free foodstuffs out of the hedgerows.

With the clocks due to go back on Sunday October 31, the onset of winter will soon be undeniable, and the opportunities for this sort of thing will decrease markedly (although, according to this article, not quite so markedly as you might think.)

Our nettlefest is over without adverse incident, or so much as an upset stomach. We started the week with nettle tea and moved on to nettle and mushroom risotto. This was not such a good move since the leaves were coarsely chopped and very recognisable, not the best way to encounter nettles in your food for the first time. Still, it was eaten with no ill effects, and we moved on to the gnocchi.

Following a recipe for these delicious Italian potato dumplings that involved an egg, nutmeg and a sprinklng of cheese, we found ourselves with a product in which the green ingredients tasted very much like spinach. Eaten with tomato sauce they were delicious and a second batch went in the freezer for consumption later in the week.

Events climaxed this weekend with nettle soup, a pleasantly green-speckled concoction created with the standard potato, stock and onion soup base enlivened with lots of chopped nettles and then put through the blender when cooked. Cream stirred in just before serving finished it off.

We cannot deny that the preparation is a handful, requiring sacrificing the draining board to a great heap of untouchable greenery that takes hours to dry off after washing, then latex gloves to avoid problems while cutting off and chopping the edible top shoots and smaller leaves. But we’ve had a great week of unusual eating – definitely worth the trouble.

We have two more recipes in mind to try where, in both cases, the nettles will double for spinach. The first is nettle and ricotta cannelloni, the second is this recipe for spinach, aubergine and chickpea curry.

We’ll report back. But not for a few months. The next plan is to look into some kind of formal course in mushroom identification rather than risk poisoning ourselves through the good offices of DIY recognition. This should be great fun, something we are already looking forward to.

In the meantime, some foodie photos (apologies for the poor light in some of these):