I know this is a little different from what I usually post, but given the panic buying at supermarkets I figured it’d be good to share some info on free food with you guys.
When I was a kid, my family loved foraging. This is what I’ve learned from a young age:
1. Stinging Nettles
At this time of year, you can eat the whole lot because it’s nice and fresh. If you wait a couple of months it’ll be best to just eat the fresh growth on the tops. Boil em up so they don’t sting you, and keep the water you boiled them in – it’s great for stock, tea, soup, you name it. Some say it tastes like spinach, so treat it like a spinach substitute when the supermarket’s empty.
2. Herb Robert
A.k.a. Storkbill, Stinky Bob, Mountain Geranium, Herbe Rouge, Dragon’s Blood.
It smells quite strong – I like the smell, but a lot of people don’t, hence the name Stinky Bob. The stems are often green but tinged red, with little hairs on them, so you’re going to want to boil them so the hairs don’t stick to you. It’s a brilliant plant with a ridiculous number of uses. If you’re just starting a garden, encourage this near your crops because it works as an insect repellent. If you crush the leaves and wipe them on your face it can deter mosquitoes and other such pests, but again not everyone can handle the smell. As a food it’s good for making a pesto with, but you can boil it to get a nice tea, and there are a few decent recipes out there with this. It’s high in iron, vitamins B and C, carotenoids (which convert to vitamin A), phosphorou, magnesium, potassium, germanium, calcium, etc.
When I was a kid these were the biggest pain in the butt because they’d stick to your school uniform all the time. But that’s how this plant survives – it finds something to stick to, and then shoots up! Now I find that the velcro-like nature of this plant is brilliant, because all I have to do is put my hand in a patch and the plant will come out nice and easy. It’s great when you have a lot of long grass mixed in with the cleavers.
So what does it do that’s so good? Well, in the Medieval times cleavers were a staple of the diet because of their reliability. You can find them even in frost. The leaves and stems can be used for soups, stews, pesto sauces, and even add a nice bit of flavour to curries. The seeds can be ground to make a coffee substitute when the shops are all out. But health wise, this plant is rich in vitamin C and can help with treating kidney and urinary disorders. Just a heads up, you may end up peeing a bit more because it does have a diuretic effect, but it’s a good way of expelling infections from your body.
Plus, here’s a fun fact: when birds eat the roots, it turns their bones red. Throughout history the roots were used to make red dye!
And now, my last piece of advice. If you’re all out of bread, but have beer (or cider) and flour, you can bake your own bread by just mixing the flour in with some beer bit by bit until you have a nice doughy consistency!
Hope that helped guys!