Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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Homemade, foraged biscuits with violets

I've had such fun experimenting with edible violets! Their colour and aroma are a delight, if not a little elusive to pin down! So I thought I'd share my best Dozen Recipes for using Violets for sweet and savoury, complete with notes on colour and flavour.

Most of the recipes I share here use sweet violets, though some are suitable for other wild violets. Check my my Wild Food: Violets post to find out more.

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A single nasturtium seed on a plant

Pickled nasturtium (Tropaeolum) seeds can make an excellent replacement for capers (which come from a different plant). This recipe is simple, quick and effective as they taste just as good as capers! Here I pick them from my wild town garden where they arrived as weeds and I've been loving their colour and flavour ever since.

Nasturiums are such a giving plant; they grow easily in the sun, partial shade or complete shade (though they may get stressed in a very hot summer in full sun). They are also easy to cultivate and grow best in dry soil. They are trailing, climbing plants, which with the right opportunity will climb upwards or fill large patches of ground.

Bowl of nasturtium seeds and flowers

Are nasturtiums really a wild food?

Native to South America, but were brought to Europe in the 1500s and have since naturalised in many areas. I know them both as a cultivated, garden plant and a profuse, common weed.

There are over 80 species of nasturtiums, some annual, some perennial. Luckily, nasturtiums produce a lot of seeds which mean they keep coming back (even if they are annuals) AND there can still be enough seeds to produce these capers.

Which part of nasturtiums are edible?

All parts of nasturtiums (pronounced na-stir-tchums) are edible. Their name literally means nose twister or nose tweaker, because of their peppery kick. The flowers are sweet and the leaves, flowers and seeds all have that spicy flavour. I love adding the flowers into salads, the leaves into pesto and pickling the seeds to make these fake capers - though they taste just as good!

I love their beautiful, colour flowers to look at, smell and eat! They can start to flower in spring and early summer.

Are nasturtiums good for you to eat?

Nasturtiums contain a good amount of vitamin C and high amounts of lutein derived from carotenoids, which may be beneficial for eye health (1). Eating a varied diet full of greens, orange, yellow and a range of colours is generally considered good for your health too (2).

Nasturtium Capers (Pickled seeds) Recipe

Makes 1 jar

Ingredients

  • 300 g/1 cup nasturtium seeds
  • 80 ml/1/3 cup vinegar*
  • 80 ml/1/3 cup water
  • Large pinch of sea salt
  • Large pinch sugar
  • 2 tsp chopped herbs (of your choice) - optional

Wash the seeds and place in a pickling jar. In a small saucepan heat up the vinegar, water, salt and sugar to boiling. Pour over the seeds. Add the herbs if using and stir in to submerge. Screw on the lid and leave for 2 weeks before using.

How to pickled nasturtium seeds compare to capers?

Capers are from the caper bush (Capparis spinosa or Capparis inermis) from the Mediterranean and parts of Asia. they also have both wild and cultivated cousins. Of course pickled nasturtium seeds are different, but they're a pretty good replacement! Call these fake capers if you wish, or just pickled nasturtium seeds.

Jar of pickled nasturtium seeds
(Freshly pickled, these need to be left for at least 2 weeks to mature)

References

Rolls of homemade fruit yoyos!

Perfect for sluggish, cold days, this fruit leather is a fabulous pick-me-up. This recipe is definitely worth the effort, you'll have about 8 strips of fruit leather and will just need a nibble as a lift, so they last for ages!

The fruit of the hawthorn tree (Crataegus monogyna or Crataegus laevigata), can be good for the heart, can get your 'chi' moving (your life force energy), be uplifting and tasty. Lets get down to the fruity business of haws.

It's November, and now is the perfect time to pick these fruits. They are a lovely dark red colour, and still a plenty, if you find the right tree. This recipe is suited for those who enjoy processes and have some patience. It's not quick, it takes some mashing, though is delicious and as we know, it is good for the heart...

Luscious rolls of homemade hawthorn fruit leather

Hawthorn Fruit Leather Recipe

Hawthorn fruit leather is a deliciously simple snack. It has a bit of a tang and a hint of natural sweetness to get you through sluggish afternoons or slow mornings. It's made from mashed haw berries, apple and honey. It's also great for packed lunches, a snack for walking, gifts and will keep for up to 6 months or a year even. Here it is....

Ingredients

  • 450g haws
  • 450g apples
  • 350ml water
  • 3 tbsp honey

The method:

Remove the stalks from the haws, and chop the apples into pieces, don’t worry about removing the core, as it will all be sieved. Place the fruits and water in a medium and bring to the boil. Cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the fruits are soft and strain through a sieve into a large, bowl. Allow the fruit pulp to cool, and using a wooden spoon, mash and push the fruit pulp through the sieve, then stir in the honey. The more you do this, the more pulp you’ll be able to extract.

 

Once you’ve extracted all the pulp you can, if using a dehydrator, spread the contents over two Teflon sheets and dehydrate according to instructions. Otherwise, heat the oven to 140°C and line a 20cm by 40cm baking tray with baking paper including part the way up the sides. Pour the fruit pulp into the tray, spread evenly and bake for about 4– 5 hours, or the fruit is slightly tacky though doesn’t stay stuck to your fingers and peels away easily from the paper.

If the fruit is drying unevenly, turn the tray around in the oven, or be prepared to slice off the edges, if over-cooked when done. Peel off the tray, cool and cut into pieces or strips and store in a sterilised jar or wrapped in greaseproof paper.

Detail of strips of hawthorn fruit leather

I share recipes (and tasters) regularly on my wild food foraging courses, or stay up to date through my facebook or instagram page.

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