When I was a student I discovered wild garlic. Vast green and white carpets of wild garlic in between the trees of the forest. Gathering armfuls for cooking with go-to student pasta was fun and exhilarating, and cheap. We also skip-dived and gathered waste food…
I recently went out for a meal at a restaurant and they had wild nettle cordial on the drinks menu. Ooh, as a forager with a soft spot for ‘sweet’ I just had to try it. I must say, I was disappointed. I even asked for an extra dash of cordial so I could taste it better, though even then, all I could taste was sweet.
Perhaps because I’m used to making my own, non-commercial wild nettle cordial – fresh and homemade always tastes superior, I feel. Personally, if I make something from wild ingredients I want to benefit from a mixture of the nutrients, the flavour and the whole experience of picking to creating with it.
I find nettles rewarding to cook with because they are in such abundance and their flavour is pleasant though not overly strong. My wild nettle syrup is dark green, it is nettley (not a real word, though you get the idea) and good for you. Here (video above) I’m about to dilute it as a refreshing prelude to a nettle based lunch of nettle soup and nettle pakoras.
Oh, I do like the common stinging nettle – it is the perfect spring wild food! Here I tell you a little about why I love nettles in a short video, and here I expand on some of the reasons nettles are worth falling in love with.
Back to the recipe.
Rich Nettle Syrup
Dark and rich, I’ve watched nettle syrup disappear surprisingly quickly as a diluted drink at events. This version includes fennel, which lifts the syrup out of the darkness a little and is delicious in Nettle Baklava or Sweet and Nutty Nettle Energy Balls (more on those another time). Nettles also goes well with lemon or root ginger (simmer the ginger with the nettles, or add the lemon at the end of cooking).
Makes approx. 750 ml
- 800 ml water
- 3 tbsp fennel seeds, freshly ground or crushed (optional).
- 200 g nettle tops
- 800 g soft brown or demerara sugar
- 1–2 tbsp lemon juice (if not using immediately)
Put the water, fennel seeds and nettle tops in a medium saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes. Take off the heat and strain through a fine sieve or muslin cloth, using a wooden spoon to help squeeze all the liquid out.
Measure the liquid, and for every millilitre add one gram of sugar (e.g. 500g of sugar for 500ml of liquid). Place the nettle liquid and sugar back in the saucepan, bring almost to the boil (the liquid should be steaming), reduce the heat and leave on the heat for half an hour, stirring occasionally. Do not allow it to boil. If using the syrup immediately, siphon off the amount you need. For the rest, add one tablespoon of lemon juice for every 200 ml of liquid, allow to cool and store in sterilised bottles.
Five years ago I wrote a blog about my Nettle and Honey Cake – it went down a treat. Named as; ‘probably the best cake I’ve ever had’ by one enthusiastic forager, I was super pleased the result. Every so often I like to repeat…
Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) are one of my favourite spring greens, and this was a recipe I shared with Graham Pullen of St Ives Screen Printing at Tom’s Yard. Graham is keen on making art affordable and accessible, and has incorporated the recipe into one…
Gorse Flower Fudge Oh my god, I had such hopes with this recipe, I really thought I’d clinched it first time (which happens occasionally, though is definitely not a given). Heating it slowly, the smell of the gorse flowers was divine and the flavour of…
We’ve been having a lot of fun, Kelsey and I.
We’ve been working pretty hard too. Kelsey Michael has been teaching me songs, I’ve been creating quirky little ditties about plants I see and eat along the coast paths and hedgerows, and we’ve been walking.
Walking and hanging out in nature, as friends do, enjoying the landscape, birds, seals, the weather, sunsets and fires. And when happiness comes, or any moment that feels worthy of enjoying or celebrating, we sing. We’ve sung to the Cornish hills, we’ve sung an ode to the sour taste of sorrel, to the wonderful world of seaweeds. To gorse bushes, to the sailors and even the donkeys that we’ve walked past. As I said, we’ve had a lot of fun.
I was lucky enough to be brought up singing, singing round camp fires (my parents ran youth camps), from church pews and at home. I love to sing, it feels a natural and joyful thing to do and share.
Though Kelsey, a professional singer and singing leader makes singing feel natural and easy for everyone. Accessibility is practically her middle name.
It’s been great to sit, stand and walk together, in song. Kelsey has been leading Wild Singing Walks for a couple of years now. Together, we offer the Singing Forager experience; being outside in nature, singing and foraging together. You can read more about what we are offering and even come and join us here; Wild Singing Walks.
Follow the #singingforager to find out or hear more.
I’m sitting listening to Radio 4 (again) and the episode of the Digital Human called ‘Tribe’. This particular episode includes a focus on the role of hunting and gathering as a way of working together and supporting each other. Indeed, our ancestors worked together closely…