Will's Wild Food Diary

 Wild food diary

Fresh, organic and free! Of all things bushcrafty, nothing gets me more excited than a foraging adventure.

From time to time, I update this page with a different wild food that is in season –  gradually building up a seasonal diary of some of the foraging delights available to us.

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Disclaimer: there's lots of good wild stuff to eat, and much of it is fairly easy to identify. Unfortunately, there are also some plants and fungi that can make you seriously ill or worse. This diary is a brief overview intended to inspire and not a substitute for an in-depth field guide and/or skilled teacher. I will endeavour to point out any obvious poisionous look alikes, but ultimately foraging is the individual's responsibility. Unless you are 100 per cent confident you know what something is, leave it alone! Also, please be aware that, as with any food, different people can have different reactions. It is wise to try just a small amount first.

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Category: Nettles

  1. Don't judge a nettle by its sting

    Posted on

    Wnettle baskethat more could you want from a wild food? Plentiful, very easy to identify and packed full of goodness. Yes nettles are awesome – in case you're wondering, just a few seconds in boiling water will completely neutralise the sting.

    They are particularly high in vitamins A, B and C with a protein content of around 5% and iron content of 2% which, for a green vegetable, is huge. Just a few of the health conditions that nettles have been found to help are:

    • Hay fever and general allergies: nettles contain anti-histamines and anti-inflammatories.
    • Diabetes: nettles reduce blood-sugar levels and stimulate circulation.
    • High blood pressure: they dilate the peripheral blood vessels and promote urination – in turn lowering blood pressure. 
    • Anaemia: nettles have long been considered a blood tonic due to their high iron content.

    nettle juice me and sarah

    Last year, I delivered an hour-and-a-half session on the culinary uses of nettles, which ended up being quite a culinary adventure – soup, puree, pesto, cordial, vinegar infusion and bread were all on the menu. It also prompted a three-day experiment consuming only nettle juice (crushing also neutralises the sting) and nettle tea. There were some hunger pangs but, by the end, I was buzzing with energy, and it dawned on me how incredibly sustaining nettles really are.

    An interesting experience, and yet I still love the two simple bushcraft approaches – wilt the whole plant over the campfire for thirty seconds for a crunchy delicacy, or pick the young leaf, fold it from the outside, crush it well between thumb and finger and then pop it in your mouth. This is great fun for freaking out nervous adult foragers, but kids generally love it and are eager to have a go!

    Foraging considerations: Hopefully everyone should be able to recognise a nettle. There are some stronger variations of this plant in other countries, but if you are foraging in the UK, there shouldn't be anything to worry about. It’s possible it could be mistaken for the red or white dead nettles or yellow archangel but these are also edible, although their taste and medicinal values differ – they belong to a different family (lamiaceae).

    At this time of year the whole plant can be picked, I tend to use a long pair of scissors to cut, and then gather with gloves. However, as thenettle vin season progresses, it’s best to just go for the fresh tips. Once the flowers have started to form, usually around June, they are best left alone as they become coarse and mealy and produce calcium carbonate which can interfere with kidney function. One option, if you have a patch nearby, is to treat it like a 'cut and come again' vegetable – harvested every few months it should produce fresh greens well into the autumn.

    Alternatively, once the flowers have turned to seed at the end of summer, cut down a bundle, hang it up to dry and then shake over some newspaper. You’ll get a small pile of seeds which are mega rich in omega acids and protein and were even pressed into oil by the ancient Egyptians- Cleopatra’s secret to youth and beauty perhaps?