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 […]
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 of his hand-printed individual cards (featured above). I love both Graham’s botanical drawing of the humble nettle, and his interpretation into print.
The last time I made this recipe was for my friend’s birthday last spring. We had a ‘bring a contribution’ curry dinner and the range of curries, samosas and spiced breads was great. These nettle pakoras fitted in perfectly. The only down-side was my dog sneakily finishing off the cooking oil. Trust me, you don’t want to know the end of that part of the story.
The fourth time I made them was when I ran a nettle day at Bramble Cottage. It was great having a 6 month old, budding forager with us, gurgling, watching and smelling the various stages of the process. Perhaps that’s where this nursery rhythm tune came from, finding a soothing way to give a little extra information about the humble stinging nettles.
You can watch the process and hear the song in this video; ‘Making Nettle Pakoras’ below. The reason for the song lyrics is explained in my blog When NOT to eat Stinging Nettles, yet the song is self-explanatory really, so just watch and listen…
Do get in touch with Graham, and he can show you, sell you or tell you where to get a great range of foraging recipe cards, including this one with the full recipe. For more ideas, why not browse my Stinging nettles blog. Nettles are regularly included in my wild food foraging courses too.
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 […]
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 […]
I love foraging, I love the adventure of it, the thrill, the simplicity and the sheer satisfaction of collecting, preparing and eating my own gathered wild food. The last time I foraged for mussels I was with a friend, it was a wild, windy day and we found ourselves on the beach at low tide surrounded by nice, plump mussels. There and then we made a dinner plan and a spontaneous feast was foraged.
We carefully picked the largest, healthiest looking mussels, knowing the beach we were on was clean, and we discarded any that we un-attached, partially open or broken. We walked away, happy with our booty and I reflected on my reasons for not foraging shellfish more regularly. Quite simply, I want to stay safe and well. Food poisoning is not my idea of fun and I want to avoid it at all costs.
With that in mind, I thought I’d write a few notes on how to stay safe and well when foraging for shellfish. There are 3 key elements, then a few extra tips of cooking and preparing shellfish. These notes are brief, though hopefully they will add to your knowledge and help you enjoy what you forage.
No. 1. Always pick away from sources of pollution
This might be sewage, towns or other sources of pollution. I always recommend checking online and with locals who know their beach well and its cleanliness, or lack of. I’m always grateful for fishermen who share with me where to get clean mussels from.
No. 2. Wash thoroughly
Just because something is wild, it doesn’t mean it is clean and good for you, below are some thorough notes on rinsing different shellfish for food consumption.
No. 3. Make sure they’re alive
Sometimes it is useful to state the obvious, and, obviously, act on it too. Dead shellfish, are not good to eat, so discard shellfish that are dead when you forage them, or do not open when cooked.
Cockles – Winkles – Periwinkles – Mussels – Clams
If you are lucky enough to find any of these, here are some extra notes on cooking and rinsing them. Rinsing is often known as purging, and provides time to rid the shellfish of any unwanted extras, from toxins, bacteria and micro-organisms to sand, mud and anything untoward in their guts. It is well worth taking the time to do this, obviously.
What water and how much to use when purging?
If your shellfish are from the sea, then purging in salted water will be the best option, sea salt that is. The amounts are; 35g of sea salt to every litre of water, or clean, filtered sea water. The shellfish just need to be covered with water, no more or less. Purging means just letting the shellfish sit and soak in this water for the suggested amount of time.
If the shellfish have been foraged from estuaries, then fresh water should also be fine, though you might want to add a little salt. Cockles, mussels and clams are all shellfish I mention in my blog; What can you forage on the Helford?
Cockles – Rinse through with fresh water, then soak for 6 hours and check they are still alive before cooking for 5 minutes
Winkles and Periwinkles – Rinse through with fresh water, then purge for 12 hours, plunge into boiling water for 10 minutes
Mussels – Using a knife, scrape off all the barnacles, rinse twice with fresh water and check they are alive before cooking
Clams – Rinse with fresh water, then purge for 6 hours and cook for 10 minutes