How to make the most of a summer forage

Posted on: 01 June 2017 by 50connect editorial

Primrose Matheson shares her wisdom for foraging this summer and recommends what we should be looking out for.

Wild garlic

“As I walk into my garden and the fields around where I live, it always surprises me how much life and growth lives around our feet and in the hedgerows. Although it can all look like a blanket of green there is so much variety when one looks closer.  The irony is we are often living too quickly to see it. Spring is finally here thank goodness and we can finally shake off the last remnants of the winter and blossom with new energy and new life like the flowers around us.”

Nettles

The nettles are easy to identify and you will probably find them in your garden. Pick the new sprigs at the top of the plant as this is where the most energy is held in the plant. Add it to hot water for a tea, blend it down with leeks and wild garlic for an immune boosting soup.

Wild Garlic

I love this on its own as a salad, the leaves torn into strips, the flowers sprinkled over the top and a dash of olive oil, squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of salt. So fresh, simple and delicious and they’re a great antibacterial, vitamin c rich food.

Lettuce

If you sowed some lettuce early under cover (as I did!) you will be able to enjoy your own fresh mixed salads.  Most industrially-grown salad is sprayed with a huge amount of chemicals and as lettuce is mostly water you end up ingesting most of these.  It’s important to go organic and grow your own if you can.  This is easily done on a windowsill if you don't have a greenhouse.

Hawthorn flowers

Hawthorn flowers

I love nibbling these beautiful delicate white flowers as I'm on walks or using them to decorate food. They have a strong flavour and a great affinity with the heart and circulation system.

Dandelion

Spring time is an important time to detoxify and so we need to give our kidneys and liver all the help they can get and rid ourselves of what has accumulated over the winter. A great way to do this is with digestive bitters, as bitter things stimulate these two pathways. You can eat the bitter dandelion leaves in salads but my preference is to dig up a root, wash it and put it in a jar with vodka, spices (peppercorns, cardamon, cloves etc) and fruit zest or whole fruit (apples are good) and leave for a month. Then add a little to some warm water and drink first thing in the morning.

Primroses

I am probably biased as it is my namesake but I love the Primrose family (primula vulgaris) which includes cowslip. Not only are they are natural sedative and relaxant, so great for chewing if anxious or adding to tea and salads and puddings, they are also great for the skin and I make my own face oil with them. I fill a jar with the flowers and cover with hemp or olive oil then leave for at least a month to infuse before straining and bottling and using on my skin. It can also be used to make primrose champagne! 

Seaweed

Seaweed

I am lucky enough to live near the beach and so seaweed is another source of nutrients available to me.  Areas of headland that stick out into the sea along the coast usually provide abundant areas for rock clinging seaweeds at low tide like sea salad, peppered dulse and kelp.

Plantain

A magical plant known as a cure for bites – you see it growing in paths and lawns and is one of the best antibacterial, anti-inflammatory healer. If you get a cut, sting or bite (any infection) you can chew the plant and place it on the infected area and it will heal itself. You can use it in salads or create your own tincture with it by filling up a jar and topping with vodka and leaving for a couple of months and straining.

Wild mustard

This is a peppery addition to salads or you can cook it like spinach. It’s also useful to dry the leaves and stems and use in stews at a later date.

Cleavers

An old favourite for supporting and cleaning out the lymphatic system this weed is found in abundance and will attach itself to you as you walk past it with its little hooks. Following the doctrine of signatures it hooks out toxins through lymphatic drainage. You can chew it as you walk, add it to smoothies or hot pots. You can also make tinctures using pure alcohol to use during the winter – a great one to eat as a support in any chronic health conditions.

Visit Primrose's Kitchen for further tips

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