It’s a fresh winter morning and I am sitting watching the sky lighten and the day begin. I am just sitting, doing nothing, while the day is offering nothing less than a performance. Blue sky starts to peek through, charcoal grey clouds move slowly in […]
Spring is exciting – a combination of both warmth and light gets plants, animals and human-animals going. Sometimes, for me, too going. The term mad march hare feels too close to home for me, as I prance around the hedgerows picking wild greens as if […]
Sea Spinach soup is a simple, delicious soup which celebrates this wonderful wild green. Creamy, filling and even dairy-free, perfect for a fresh, early spring al fresco lunch, or an autumnal or winter trip out along the coast, with a flask of tasty hot soup.
Spring is here and it is undeniably the time for greens*; the green leaves and shoots of wild edibles start to edge higher towards the light and their taste begins to improve. I love seeing plants growing in the wild – green is gentle medicine for my eyes – and that’s why I like to pick only the plants that are growing abundantly – leaving a lot behind in nature.
*If you’re reading this in autumn or winter, the leaves of Sea Spinach , are also good to pick through autumn and winter too.
I don’t always plan my foraging, actually, I rarely do, instead, it becomes a spontaneous response to my surroundings. This was one such morning; I’d arranged to meet a friend at 8am so we could enjoy a morning walk – the weather was expected to be good and we both wanted to start our day outside, in sunny nature.
It was crisp and sunny, and wrapped up in big coats we walked through a small woodland, birds singing, light streaming through and nature felt alive. We felt alive – fresh to the day and with nothing much to say.
We reached the coast, and Sea Spinach (Beta vulgaris), also known as Sea Beet, was almost glistening in the light. Ooh, those shiney leaves looked good enough to eat! We ambled along the coast and pick a few leaves here and there, looking for the best one, the shiniest ones, the healthiest, freshest ones, the further we walked, the more patches of leaves we found. Taking just what we needed, we continued on our sun-rich morning walk.
My mind wandered to cooking…
Hours later I was back in my kitchen, flicking through Darina Allen‘s book, looking for an inspiring spring greens recipe, and found a wonderful and traditional Sea Spinach soup; utilising this tasty wild in a full-fat, creamy base. Yum! I love Darina’s writing and her traditional, fool-hardy recipes, I used her Irish Beef Stew recipe in my first book with wild, Black Mustard mash.
Though as much as I love, and trust her recipes, sometimes I want a break from milk and cream. This was one such day, so I set about adapting her recipe to use coconut milk instead. I love tweaking recipes.
The result was delicious; I enjoyed it on the beach with a group of foragers (we all had seconds), then supped the hot left-overs as a starter with friends that evening. A beautiful, fresh green colour and perfect if you are waiting for the stinging nettles to arrive, though you are a little too early.
Sea Spinach and Coconut Soup (my version)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 medium onion
- 150g pots, diced (scrubbed, though not peeled)
- 200g creamed coconut
- 1300ml boiling water
- 2 tsp powdered vegetable stock
- salt and pepper
- 300g sea spinach (stalks removed)
- handful of three-cornered leek (optional)
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat, chop the onion and add to the sizzling oil, stir and cook until translucent. Lower the heat, add the potatoes, and sweat for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, roughly chop the cream coconut and place in a large, heat-proof bowl, pour the boiling water over the coconut, and stir until dissolved. Strain and add the liquid to the potatoes and onion. Season with stock and salt and pepper. Chop the sea spinach and three-cornered leek and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the spinach is cooked. Blend and serve, or pour into a hot flask and take to the beach for a hearty lunch.
It’s deep December and I’m standing outside. Actually, there’s 8 of us standing outside and waiting for the one that’s gone astray. Once we’re all congregated, we begin. There’s something innately quiet about walking in Winter, as if all around us is sleeping, and in […]
How to remember & appreciate the mundane (and why we’re running ‘Nettle Days’).
In life & relationships it is all too easy to take for granted those that are close to us, to over-look our loved one’s qualities that we once fell in love with. Too easy to forget that they are amazing, loveable, admirable, desirable, shifting our focus instead onto their negative qualities & the things we’d like to change.
I feel it is the same with Nettles (Urtica dioica). We’ve got so used to seeing them – almost everyone knows what a nettle looks & feels like – that all we have left to say to them is rude & dismissing. Our modern culture tells us that foreign super foods are bigger & better, though Nettles are just as good & free! It’s time we rekindled our love for this plant – a local love affair because…
…nettles have always been there for us. A true native, growing & thriving through our British seasons, arriving, without fail, each spring – vibrant, potent & bursting with nutrition.
Oooh, but the sting! I hear you cry…
Oooh, but their always growing in the wrong place & a real pain to get rid of.
Well, those so-called negative qualities also have a flip side. Nettles sting to protect themselves – yes, they’re that valuable that they developed a protective mechanism. Their sting even contains the same compound as a bee sting – formic acid. The sting of the nettle has also been used to help relieve severe rheumatic pains & to help improve blood circulation (Culperer Herbal). As spring arrives the sting is even more virulent (I can still feel my fingers pulsating from my yesterday’s foraging!).
The ability of the humble stinging nettle to grow in abundance was of great use to our ancestors & is great for us too. Those long roots that are so difficult to dig up enable nettles to draw up the rich nutrition deep in the soil. Exuding with vitamin B2, C, E, K, iron, protein, magnesium, calcium, beta-carotene as well as other minerals. They’ve been used to treat anemia, rheumatism, arthritis & kidney disorders to name a few. All this makes nettles a fantastic food, hair tonic & herbal tea.
The thick, hardy stems contain strong fibres that have been used to make string & rope as well as practical & beautiful clothing. My favourite are delicate nettle shawls, see www.wildweaves.co.uk.
So to conclude, why would we want to get rid of this old love, for a new more exciting one? Why not re-ignite or even start your love for nettles; cherish their qualities, put on your best (nettle) clothes, eat (nettle soup), drink (nettle beer) & be merry! Nettles are our own, native super food. Available in abundance, on our doorstep, in hedgerows, fields & amongst the plants we so lovingly cultivate. Life is too short to chase the greener grass elsewhere, especially when the grass here is so rich with nettles!
Finally, are they tasty? Are they ever! Use like spinach, they’re great in lasagne, curry, soup, risotto, in falafel, gnoochi & make a great base for pesto (blanch the leaves first).
Wishing you a wonderful love affair… X