I’ve never really got on with making alcohol. As much as I like processes (I tend to think that people are either predominantly process or goal orientated), whether it is wine or beer, I seem to lack the knack of transforming weeds into a fermented […]
Tag: Urtica dioica
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 recipes so I can enjoy the flavours again and see if they need tweaking. Over the last few years I’ve also found that nettles combines well with ginger and with lemon and, although this cake contains neither, its texture is reminiscent of a lovely moist ginger cake.
Last week, however, I made a new discovery; nettle cake (urtica dioica) and gorse (ulex gallii, ulex europaeus) flower syrup! It’s a wild and divine combination which I just had to share with you.
A Spring Dessert: Nettle and Honey Cake with Gorse Flower Syrup
An almost toffee flavoured, moist, not too sweet cake, with a sweet hit of moorland gorse flavours drizzled over it. Somehow, this whole combination reminds me of green tea, perhaps it is the lovingly received health benefits of these local, wild ingredients, or just the natural flavours of green nettles and infused gorse.
- 50-75 g nettle tops
- 250 g clear honey
- 100 g dark muscovado sugar
- 225 g butter
- 3 large eggs beaten
- 300 g white flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
For the syrup
- 50 g fresh gorse flowers
- 225 g unrefined sugar
- 300 ml water
Place the gorse flowers in a medium saucepan with the water and sugar and bring to the boil. Immediately take off the heat, cover with a lid and leave overnight (or for as many hours as you can). The next day bring the liquid to the boil again and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve or muslin cloth and store in sterilised bottles in the fridge or freeze in ice cube containers and defrost as needed. Will last a month or so if not frozen.
Line a 20 cm square or round cake tin and pre-heat the oven to 150°C. Steam the nettles for 5 minutes and put aside to cool. Place the honey, sugar and butter in a small saucepan over a low heat and stir until melted and combined. Once the nettles are cooled, blend with the eggs to make a smooth, green pulp. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and gradually beat in the melted sugar and butter mix. It will resemble a lovely toffee colour.
Pour in the pureed nettles and blended eggs and beat together.
It makes a wonderful green, raw cake mixture colour! Pour into the cake tin and bake for an hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, or the cake springs back when touched. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin onto a cooling rack, and cool completely before slicing. Serve with gorse flower syrup.
I’ve been teaching foraging for a while now (over 10 years), and I’ve just come across some old film footage of me introducing stinging nettles (Urtica dioica). Oooh, we were all younger then, weren’t we! Nettles remains one of my favourite wild greens, especially in […]
It is spring, the time for going nettling!
I wait and wait for this moment in spring. Last week I passed a huge patch of stinging nettles (urtica dioica), looking all lovely and ready to pick. It’s hard to explain, but when they’re really ready their presence changes, they become more vibrant looking and start to wink at me.
Now I can call my neighbour, don strong gardening gloves and we can go nettle picking. Blackberry picking is so… autumn, this is spring, the time for nettles! All the nutritional benefits of nettling I discuss on my spring foraging courses and I have so much more to share on nettles, including recipes and when not to pick them. You can browse this information here on my Stinging nettles blog.
Just like blackberrying, picking nettles would have been a seasonal affair, gathering nutritious greens that even children would have devoured. Many people have heard of nettle soup, but have you actually tried it? It doesn’t taste of spinach, it tastes of nettles which is even better. Go find your gardening gloves…
When I was researching for my first book; Wild Food Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly I came across an old recipe Cornish recipe for Nettle soup. It included sausages and was boiled for an hour. An hour! No, not I, in these modern times I thought I could make a much tastier, fresher one, and I did. The recipe is in my foraging book.
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 […]
I’m writing this blog in summer – not a time to eat stinging nettles (urtica dioica), despite the Dorset Nettle Eating Competition held every July (read the important information on When Not to Eat Nettles to find out why not). However, nettles have many other virtues beyond […]
You may know, that I rate Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) highly. I believe they are one of our most nutritious greens in the UK alongside the goosefoot family which includes Fat Hen (Chenopodium album), Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus) and Oraches (Atriplex patula and Atriplex prostrata).
Stinging Nettles are common and easy to identify, so what’s not to like?!
I have other blogs that include recipes using nettles, and further nettle recipes in my wild food foraging book so here I wanted to focus on something different – when not to pick and eat them. They are not like shell-fish (only eat when there’s an ‘r’ in the month), though there are some general guidelines that will help you pick and eat the best, edible nettles.
Here’s just 4 times it is good not to pick nettles for food.
1. Don’t pick Stinging Nettles when in Flower
The flowers on Stinging Nettles are like catkins; little tendrils of flowers dropping down from the stems, they tend to be green or yellowy-green in colour, so not always obvious to spot. This signifies a change in this nutritious plant, a change that is of benefit to butterflies and moths, though not to humans. At this stage it is best to quote John Wright (from his Hedgerow book) as he says it so well and thoroughly;
‘At the first sign of flowers you must stop picking. The plant will now start producing cystoliths – microscopic rods of calium carbonate – which can be absorbed by the body where they will mechanically interfere with kidney function.’
Well said John. So we’ ve been told.
2. Avoid polluted sites
This should be common sense. Nettle have long roots to draw up nutriton and normally thrive in healthy and nitrogen rich soil, though do a little research and be sure you’re picking from areas as free from pollutants as possible. Of course pollutatants can also be air-borne, so picking away from busy roadsides is recommended too.
3. Avoid when leave are tinged with purple
Sometimes the leaves of stinging nettles are tinged purple. This need not be a problem, nor a reason to avoid that particular patch, though it tends to signify that the plant is tired or stressed in some way, which can make the leaves a little bitter. Something to consider.
4. When you don’t have gloves or have lots of exposed skin
We’ve all done it, or know someone who’s been badly stung by nettles. Many of us are also tempted to pick delicious looking nettle leaves, even though our gloves are miles away in a forgotten cupboard. Thick sleeves can be used as a substitute for gloves (wearing over your hands), though know that nettles also have a habit of finding bare skin and innocently brushing themselves against you. A nettle sting doesn’t have to be problem; the sting brings blood to the skin’s surface, thus stimulating blood flow. Though too many stings are sometimes too much to bare. Consider waiting; the nettles continue strong, and return every year.
I’d love to show and teach you more about Stinging Nettles, including recipe ideas, find out more on my Wild Food Foraging Courses.
Nettles are amazing – nutritious, versatile and abundant. Never under-estimate the humble stinging nettle (urtica dioica) it’s one of the best wild greens we have (nettles contain iron, vitamin c, protein and so, so much more). Really we should and could be celebrating, and using […]