FORAGING SHOULD BE A WAY OF LIFE!
I add foraged foods to my wedding and party menus wherever I can. One of my favourite wild foods is the humble Nettle.
Rich in vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium, magnesium.. and up to 20% protein, well higher than almost any leafy vegetable! Better yet they are delicious, free and everywhere.
Harvest with or without rubber gloves, snip or pinch, you will get stung whatever, it’s part of the fun! Aim for the top young leaves in March and April. Later in the year cut them back to promote new young growth.
Use like spinach – in soups, stews, juices..
Or try this wonderful Greek inspired Nettle and Feta pie.
Preheat oven to 180oC/160oC degree Centigrade fan/gas mark 6.
Finely slice then fry 2 red onions in butter till golden. Add 2 cloves crushed garlic and fry
for another minute. Add 250g each of chopped nettles and spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook till wilted.
Squeeze out liquid then add chopped fresh dill, mix with 2 beaten eggs, 200g crumbled feta, 75g pine nuts and the zest of a lemon.
Line an oven dish with rolled puff pastry. Add filling, cut a lattice top from leftover pastry, brush with oil and bake for 35-40min till golden and springy to touch. Cool for 15 min before serving with crusty bread and a green salad.
Use websites like eatseasonally.co.uk to find what is good now and follow the seasons.
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Barney, Infamous Catering
Anyone aged 11-16 (beginner or experienced musicians) can enjoy making music at The Music Works’ Afterschool Club and Studio Sessions at SoundSpace Studios, Cinderford. Try out instruments, play in a band, use music technology. 11-18 year olds can also book sessions for very low prices. £3 per person per hour, Mondays 3-4.30pm (club). Causeway Road, Cinderford, GL14 2AF.
For me, food is one of the most important things I have to think about every day. I am a darned good cook, creating unforgettable flavours from seasonal British ingredients everyday!! But I do get fed up of shopping, planning meals, using things up in the fridge, so like to introduce a bit of imagination to make it all much more exciting.
So I mix it up, and that is where foraging kicks in and breaks the cycle.
I am not some mega bearded bush master jedi, no, I am just a dad of 2 who is lucky enough to live in this wonderful wilderness. With every season of every year, I learn of a few more wild foods I can harvest, where to find them and when. So my wild pantry grows and grows.
At this point it is worth pointing out that as a mad foodie I am not foraging for a matter of life or death survival type stuff. No, I am all about finding amazing tasting wild ingredients that will take a dish to the next level for free (wild mushrooms, spring nettles, Wild Garlic, Elderflower…).
A walk in the beautiful forest with my family and friends becomes a trip to the shop. Foraging for food is in our blood and I promise the collective satisfaction of going for a walk, and finding just one major part of a meal, let alone 60 or 70% of it, ranks pretty high in the family bonding stakes. You might even find you get some interested helpers in the kitchen when you get back! If you are reading this wondering how you too can unleash your inner forager this July, then I think the wild cherry is the place to start.
Wild Cherry is easy to identify. It is a colonizing tree, you will find it on the edge of fields and woodland, not deep in the forest. It is easy to recognize, it has a shiny trunk with striped lateral rings, saw tooth edged leaves, pink blossom and of course its fruit.
Much smaller than a shop bought Cherry (if you are lucky you may find a cultivated tree with full size cherries, these are sweet and great as they are). The fruit is ripe when it is dark, almost black, as with all cherries it has a large stone in the middle and even when ripe remains quite bitter. Because of this I suggest cooking the fruit is the best way to fully appreciate these little beauties. That way you get a chance to balance the sweetness with a little honey or sugar at the end if you need it.
They can be used to make jams, pies, cordials and cocktails.. Recipes for all of which are on ‘tinternet’ should you fancy looking. But for me the pairing of beautiful pan fried Dean venison with a sweet/sour wild cherry sauce, boiled buttered Jersey Royals and some garlicky wilted greens or nettle tops, is a summer supper made in heaven.
Forest of Dean venison with wild cherry sauce, new potatoes and wilted greens. (serves 2)
Vegetarian Option – substitute venison for halloumi, no not so local, but still very tasty!
Heat some oil in a frying pan to a medium heat, season, then cook 2 200g pieces of venison back strap or loin ( you could use duck breasts, lamb chops, halloumi…) for 5 mins, then turn over and cook for 3-5 mins more, depending on how rare you like it and the thickness. Lift the meat from the pan and set aside to rest. Leave the pan on the heat.
Add 2 tbs balsamic vinegar to the pan, then pour in 150ml beef stock, 2 tbs redcurrant jelly and a clove of garlic minced.
Stir over quite a high heat to blend everything together and reduce, then add 85g of pitted wild cherries and carry on cooking until they soften.
Taste it, is it nice? Would it benefit from a touch of salt, a little more sweet, a bit more tang from some more balsamic? This (assuming you don’t burn or forget to cook the meat!) is the most important bit of cooking!!
Taste things, add flavours slowly, you can’t take them out again!!
Serve over the venison with new potatoes and seasonal greens wilted with butter and a hint of garlic.
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Nettle has a unique and delicious flavour. No surprise then that its soups with potato, a luscious risotto, and the various flamiche recipes become favourites.
This recipe concentrates the taste of the dark green fleshy leaves with the rustic flavour of toasted sunflower kernels, a soupcon of chilli heat, and the richness of a good olive oil.
You could use this forager’s Nettle pesto as a base and build it up with flavours of your own: such as basil, anchovy fillets, Kalamata olives, crab apple purée, or hazel nuts.
100g stinging nettle leaves (single leaves without stalk or petioles)
100 ml good olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 tsp mild red chilli, chopped finely
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
50g sunflower kernels
juice of 1 lemon
- Put the nettle leaves into a bowl and cover with clingfim and microwave on full power for 2 minutes. Take out of the microwave, leave the clingfilm on and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Alternatively steam the nettle leaves for 5 minutes until tender.
- Fry the chilli in 2 teaspoons of the olive oil until soft and the oil is coloured.
- In a food processor add the rest of olive oil, the fried chilli and all the chopped garlic and blitz. Add the nettle leaves and combine to a smooth purée. Add black pepper and lemon juice to taste.
- Heat the sunflower kernels in a dry frying pan over a moderate heat, stirring or tossing them, until they just start to colour. Careful or they will burn. Immediately tip into a bowl to cool.
- With a spatula, remove the nettle purée from the food processor bowl into a serving bowl. Add the sunflower seeds and gently mix in.
- Serving tips: excellent with feta cheese, on toast (or bruschetta), with roast vegetables (including jacket potato), or just mixed into hot pasta.
- The pesto will keep in the fridge, best to top the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil and store in a sterilized, lidded, and labelled jar.
Foragers tip: If you cut stinging nettle back to about 20cm high, it will reshoot giving you a supply of fresh leaves. Repeat cutting works until the first frost.
Medical Herbalist & Forager
Yes – The Forest Bee reaches places other brochures can’t go:
Schools: Dean Academy, Dene Magna, Lakers and John Kyrle in Ross, plus a few junior schools around the Forest.
Doctors’ Surgeries and NHS health professionals eg nurses gave them out when doing flu jabs this winter
Village Agents who support the over 50’s across the Forest, sponsored by Gloucestershire Rural Community Council.
Organic Veg Boxes (Forest Food Hub, Field Fayre)Leisure Centres and Gyms
Forest Voluntary Action Forum (FVAF) at Belle Vue Centre, Cinderford
Care agencies (by request)
Great Oaks Hospice (by request)
Village & Community Halls via our network of tutors
Plus, of course, all the usual: Libraries, Cycle Centres, Forest of Dean, Ross & Monmouth Tourist Information Offices, Forest of Dean District Council offices, Midcounties Co-ops, village shops (and yes, they are welcome in ALL of them, including those very pushed for space), cafes, pubs, Taurus Crafts, Harts Barn Craft Centre, Vantage Point, several chip shops (particularly popular with the Littledean one, so thanks to our distributor there who is constantly topping them up).
We also have a popular Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Our brilliant logo was created and donated to our project by the very talented local cartoonist, Ron Tocknell.