Spear leaved Orache is a dusty green leaf that is commonly found on and near the beach. Coastal tracks will lead you to this salty wild treat. The first time we encountered to wild edible leaf was on a coastal foraging excursion to the west coast of Ireland with our foodie friend Denis. He would often stop and taste the delicacies of the land: samphire, dulce and chamomile were definitely on the list but then we stumbled upon Orache and he told me to try some. I was blown away.
This is the salty spinach I wanted to add to every soup dish I had tried so thanks to Denis we made a new discovery and have been using Orache to experiment ever since.
What is Orache?
Orache is a green plant that loves to grow in saline laced sand and coastal areas. It is also know as Atriplex (A.prostrata)
How to Identify and Eat Orache Leaves
The spear headed leaves and the coastal location makes this tasty plant easy enough to identify.
There is a look-a-like plant called lambs quarter which is also an edible cousin of this plant but not as salty and mostly found near woodland.
The leaves are arrow like triangular shaped.
You can eat Orache leaves raw in a salad or fry them up in a little olive oil. Substitute it for some of your spinach recipes.
When to eat Orache?
Forage the young leaves in late March and April. They maintain their saltiness while also having sweeter tones that are easy to digest when raw. Harvest the mature leaves in summer time. I snip the leaves in the summer months, leaving the stems for wildlife to nibble on.
This is a super easy and super delicious wild recipe that you bake over and over again. One batch a month is probably enough but in the summer months wild onion focaccia recipe goes well with any main meal.
For the Flavour
1 large handful of Wild Onion chopped finely
1 small bunch of wild garlic chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic grated
Fresh herbs chopped finely (we used rosemary and thyme)
1 Cup of Olive oil
Pepper and Sea salt
For the Dough
1 packed of dry fast acting yeast
2 1/2 cup of flour
A teaspoon of salt
Putting the Ingredients together
Add all of the flavour ingredients to a pan and pour over the olive oil. Leave this heat gently. Once the oil is infused with all of the ingredients leave it cool down.
Add the yeast to a cup of warm water. Mix in 1 cup of flour and leave for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes add the salt and the remainder of the flour. Now you are ready to add half of the oil mixture to your dough. Knead the dough 20 times and put into the fridge for 1 hour.
After an hour, remove the dough from the fridge, roll it out roughly (you don’t want to flatten it completely, just make a nice bulky rectangle). Now pierce holes all over the top of the dough with your thumb, pour over the rest of the infused oil and put into the oven for 25 minutes at 160 degrees.
Whip together a few homemade dips, wild garlic hummus or just a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
A simple, wild focaccia recipe for family and friends. Enjoy!
We have been brushing up on our herb knowledge for years and if you are truly passionate about the subject you will know that it is a never ending commitment to life long education. Learning about plants, natural remedies, foraging, botany and forestry is time well spent.
Herbalism is something that can be taught in the classroom but like everything in life, nothing beats real life experience.
To truly understand the value of herbs in your daily, weekly, monthly life then you must practice, experiment and dedicate time to each individual herb you wish to study.
Here are a few of the free ways that you can learn about herbalism:
Head to the Library
A free space that provides you with all of the materials you need to learn about every herb, plant and chinese medicine techniques; the library is like a slice of heaven for any life long learner. Enjoy spending an afternoon browsing through the many books that will provide you with insights, inspire your foraging adventures and allow you to expand your knowledge of herbalism in all of its glory.
Free Courses for Herb Enthusiasts
Learn about herbalism with an online course. There are plenty of herb related courses you can take to get inside knowledge of herbalism. Check out the beginners course from the Herbal Academy and if you are interested in the plants that are used in natural Chinese medicine, this one has five sessions and will teach the basics of Everyday Chinese Medicine.
Watch Herbal YouTube Channels
We love watching videos on YouTube that can teach us something new and herb related tutorials are a treat for anyone interested in learning about plants. Eat the Weeds, Mountain Gardens and Avena Botanicals have some super videos packed full of herbal information for you to digest.
Visit your nearby Plant Shop
Your local plant shop and neighbourhood stores will provide more insights than you can imagine. We regularly visit the local garden centre, plant shops and hardware stores to pick the brains of the staff who have provided years of expertise when planting and growing herbs. Check out the plant descriptions, examine the growth of the plants from season to season and ask as many questions as you can.
Listen to Herbal Podcasts
Tune in to the Natural MD Podcast where we learn how natural medicine. She provides a weekly podcast on women’s health that will teach you something every time you listen in. Listen to the For the Wild podcast from fellow foragers and nature enthusiasts. It focuses on the protection of land, storytelling and our relationship with the landscapes around us.
Get to Grips with Herb Gardening
There is probably no better way to get familiar with the native and non-native herb species around you than by working with them on a weekly basis. The best way to do this is to grow them from seed or stem. A major plus with herbs is that you don’t need a lot of space to grow them in abundance and you can have several different herbs growing alongside each other. Try the mint family, basil, thyme, rosemary and wild herbs as a beginner.
Pick up a copy of our Herb Planner Pack here and start recording your herbal remedies, wild adventures and herb knowledge.
If you have anymore suggestions of how we can brush up on our herbal knowledge please get in touch with us. We are always interested in learning about herbalism, the benefits of herbs, the uses of herbs and how we can incorporate more wild herbs into our everyday cooking.
Cleavers aka Sticky Willies aka Goosegrass is a herbal treat in Springtime.
It is an annual sticky plant that you will find in your parks and woodland walks. They have small star shaped flowers attached to their pointy leaves. If you brush up against it you won’t need to pick it as it will naturally stick to any piece of clothing.
Traditionally used to cleanse the blood and strenghten the liver, cleavers are particularly useful for a spring cleaning tonic. Native Indian tribes used this plant as an anti-inflammatory and to help with gonorrhoea. The cleansing properties can help to get rid of toxins in the body and decrease congestion. It has also been reported to help with Urinary tract infections and swollen lymph nodes. They can help to protect the lining of the bladder from irritation. Cleavers are also rich in silica, used to strengthen hair, nails and teeth. It may be worth adding a little cleaver smoothie to your beauty routine in Springtime.
Ways to Use Cleavers
Cleaver infused Water
This is the perfect afternoon refresher on a bright Spring day. Pick the young stems of the plant before they growth tall. Rinse them gently under water and chop finely. Add to a jug or bottle of water and let them infuse over night in the fridge. Add a slice of lemon to your glass and pour over the infused cleaver water.
Cleaver and Nettle Smoothie
Cleavers, nettles and pears are all that you need to make this delicious, healthy Spring smoothie. Packed full of nutrition and made to detox the body, this delicious smoothie is just what the doctor ordered. Blend 1 bunch of cleavers, 1 bunch of boiled nettles and 2 pears together. Add crushed ice, a squeeze of lime juice and a sprig of mint for extra flavour.
Herbal Cleaver Tea
Harvest your cleavers, leave them dry out for a few days, cut them into tiny pieces and use them with a spoonful of honey for a soothing cup of tea.
Cleaver Infused Oil
Dried cleavers and almond oil makes the perfect massage therapy. Put a half a cup of dried cleavers in a jar, fill the jar with almond oil and leave to infuse for two weeks. Enjoy this herbal skin treat.
Cleaver, Nettle and Wild Garlic Soup
Tis the season for green, wild soup and there are plenty of delicious plants out there to add to your homemade soup recipes. For this one we use 1 cup of cleavers, 1 cup of boiled nettles, 1/2 cup of chopped wild garlic or three cornered leek and two large potatoes. Boil the potatoes, add all contents to a pot of cold water and boil until bubbling hot. Add salt and pepper. Blend the ingredients together. Serve with some fresh, warm bread.
Note: Cleavers have a high tannin content and it is generally advised that you don’t use it or consume it for long periods of time.
This plant is natures way of telling us that we need to Spring clean our bodies as well as our houses. There are so many ways to use cleavers in your foraging recipes but hopefully the above tips will give you some food for thought. This plant is one of the reasons why foraging in Springtime is so much fun.
As a keen forager, it is safe to say that I love all things wild food related, including the invasive species that climb onto, grow on and invade our native landscapes. When people see hear about my foraging adventures or join me for a trip outdoors, they are often worried if we are damaging the environment around us. I never claim to be an expert.
When it comes to wildlife, nobody is an expert. However, if you take the time to learn about the environment around you, the plants that grow in different seasons and the invasive plant species that are causing trouble than foraging for wild food and learning about the landscapes is the ideal way to brush up on your knowledge and avoid damaging the environment. If you would like to forage for wild foods go with somebody who knows their region, bring the right equipment and enjoy spending time outdoors.
I have been following fellow foragers and food enthusiasts for a long time now and there are a few that have increased their focus on invasive plant species. So what are invasive plants, how can we identify them and how can we use them in our everyday lives?
Invasive plants are introduced to their surroundings by foreign means and usually spreads generously around us. When they start to thrive they often cause harm to native eco-systems. Depending on your location you may be familiar with some non-native plant species. For instance, Japanese knotweed thrives in the woodlands and marshlands of Ireland.
Here are just a few common invasive species you can find in Ireland:
Zebra Mussels can cause changes in water cycles and impact on the native mussels we love and the fish stocks. These guys originally come from Russia and the Ukraine. Many people won’t eat these mussels as they pick up pollutants easily. However, so does all shellfish so more research is needed here and they are used by chefs in some parts of the world.
One of the hardest to pick but the sweetest taste if you can manage the picking. We finds lots of these berries spiking from their branches along the east coast shores of Ireland. Full of anti-oxidents and Vitamin C, this berry hangs around the shorelines of the UK, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. These guys are considered an invasive species so pick away.
It is highly likely that you have heard of or seen this invasive plant in a park nearby or even your neighbours garden. It was first brought to Europe in the mid 19th century by a botanist. Japanese Knotweed grows at an incredible rate and is capable of significantly damaging properties as it can squeeze through gaps of concrete.
There are three methods that are commonly recommended for helping to prevent the spread of Japanese knotweed. You can either spray it with chemicals that will eventually damage the environment around the plant, you can choose to bury it so deep that the plant is prevented from growing up out of the ground again or you can burn it. A less known method for getting rid of this disturbing plant is eating it. Yes, knotweed is edible and tastes similar to rhubarb, maybe a little more sour in taste. Not all parts of the plant are edible. Eat the shoots in springtime before they get hard. Enjoy them in dessert dishes and experiments.
Chickweed is a commonly foraged plant in Europe and it is native to the region. It can be varied in appearance but once you identify as area of it you will see it appear in the same place each year. It’s oval shaped leaves grow in pairs and it is abundant in Springtime. Best eaten fresh and raw, it has a mild flavour. It is considered an invasive species and often plagues land owners in North America. Instead of tackling it with pesticides, try picking some for your salads.
Considered an invasive herb in the US it can be found in forests and the edges of woodlands throughout the world. If you are based in the US or Canada than please feel free to go on the ultimate picking spree with this tasty plant. It takes over woodland spaecs and blocks the light and water resources from nature species. It grows on roadsides, forest edges and open forest floors. The young stems and leaves are delicious. They can be steamed with other vegetables to add a garlic mustard flavour or cut them up to add them to soups and salads. Garlic mustard pesto and hummus are great recipes too. Treat your dinner guests to a special dip with their chips.
This is a popular member of the mustard family and well known by foragers around the world. Tiny white flowers develop at the tip of the stems. The leaves and seeds are popular additions to salads and stir fry dishes. It is a welcome peppery flavour. Bittercress likes open, disturbed spaces and you will often find it popping up near the garden or along pathways. Like a lot of edible green weeds, the leaves from hairy bittercress wilt quickly so it is best to consume it fresh.
This sweet wild treat comes into its own in the summer months. It contains fatty acids and vitamin E. It is known to help treat digestive and urinary issues. Purslane has thick purple stems. You will notice the small yellow flowers that sprout from the tips of the plant. It is an invasive plant in North America and had been used in traditional dishes and salads in the 18th century.
There are wild treats to be found throughout the year but as we make our way into the Spring months the forests start to come alive. In February the snow capped slopes will start to appear green again and we can venture outdoors to get closer to nature.
So what’s in season at this time of the year. Foraging in February is fruitful if you know what to look for and where to find them.
A common plant that grows year round and is the perfect replacement for cress or rocket in your salad dishes. Pick the leaves when young; February is an ideal time of year to collect these.
This versatile stinging leaf is one of the most undervalued wild edibles around. From warming nettle soup to fresh nettle pesto there are so many ways to use this ingredient in Springtime.
Another underestimated small plant is pennywort. Often found crowded at the sides of forests and trees, this wild gem is said to help lower blood pressure. Eat it raw in salads or add it to dishes like you will find is some cuisine of Sri Lanka.
You will find this pungent plant growing in large patches in dense forests. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and chefs around the world will be out and about for wild garlic season. Follow your nose instead of your eyes for this wild plant as the smell will guide you to its location.
As the name suggests this wild plant can be found near the water sides. It works well in soups and the raw leaves are packed full of nutrients and anti-oxidants.
As a member of the rose family we love this refreshing wild plant species. The leaves are small and delicate and often hard to identify. Many say that it tastes like cucumber which makes is a perfect addition to all winter salads.
This is one of our favourite flowers. It has a mild coconut flavour and works a treat in salads and smoothies. Remember to leave some for the bees as they love these bright yellow flowers.
Be sure to wash all of your wild foraged foods carefully under luke warm water, never uproot the plant, be gentle and don’t forget to enjoy the journey along the way.
Now that you know whats out there you can begin your foraging in February adventures.
Enjoy learning about the wild foods around you and join us for a local forage in Ireland if you are nearby. You will find our guided day tours here.
Join us for a taste of the wild as we embark on unique adventures in Dublin and Wicklow for some Springtime foraging fun. We will enjoy learning about the land around us, getting a taste for foraging and making some new friends.
We are pleased to announce three public foraging tours for the coming months.
Friday 21st of Feb – Dublin
In February we will walk the trails, sample the wild food and discover the wild foods around us.
Every season we try to keep track of all of our wild food finds. We write them down, put them alongside new recipes that we try out and try to remember the locations of the plant. It is difficult to remember every trail and every outdoor adventure throughout the year so we have designed bespoke worksheets for our foraging adventures and our herb garden.
Each pack contains everything you need to start planning your wild food adventures. It should allow you to get organised and keep a record of your progress when you are learning about the herbs and wild plants around you. Each workbook contains 15 pages that are downloadable and reusable for your seasonal experiences.
When you are feeling stressed or anxious you will take anything to make this panicked feeling disappear. Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Whether its an interview you have to do, an exam you have to take or the stresses of work. However some people suffer more than others and find it difficult to manage their levels of anxiety.
You may already be familiar with the big drugs like zanex or valium but many do not know that natural herbs growing all around us can help us to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. Why not give a mixture of exercise, meditation and herbal teas a try to tackle your inner demons?
What are the causes of anxiety?
It is usually a combination of factors that include environmental factors and genetics.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Every person is different and we all react in different ways. A feeling of panic, an increased heart rate, sweating, rapid breathing, restlessness and a lack of focus are just a few of the many common symptoms of anxiety.
Here are some of the best wild herbs for anxiety:
Dried St.John’s Wort can be a calming tea substitute if you want to relax at the end of your day. The active ingredient of hypericum in this herb is said to interact with the hormones of serotonin and dopamine which are associated with depression. One study by the Cochrane Review Group found that it was as good as standard anti-depressants. However like all things we consume, this herb interacts with all other chemicals in our body so if you are best to consult your doctor if you are taking other medications before messing around with this powerful yellow plant.
Used as a medicinal herb since ancient greek and roman times, this bright flower has become well regarded for its treatment of nervousness. Taking a cup of Valerian root tea can help the mind and body to relax, therefore aiding stress and anxiety. Herbalists sometimes use it as a tincture.
Lavender has traditionally been used for its calming and therapeutic properties. In some countries a bunch of lavender is placed under a pillow at night-time to improve sleep and you will commonly find lavender scented candles in spa resorts to enhance a calm atmosphere. Evidence suggests that lavender oil taken orally is an efficient mood stabilizer, may be helpful in treating neurological disorders and contains neuroprotective properties.
This sweet scented herb has been used for over 2000 years and it is believed to be a mood enhancer. It has the ability to improve cognitive function and has proved effective in the treatment of anxiety. One study published in the Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that administration of 300 mg lemon balm extract for 15 days showed to improve symptoms of anxiety and insomnia in participants.
Why try natural remedies for anxiety?
Why not! If you are feeling anxious or stressed sometimes a walk in nature is all you need. Other herbs that we love that you may have access to are ginger and tumeric, both have natural benefits. You can also try cleansing the air of negative energy with some DIY smudge sticks. However if you want to try herbs or other remedies there are plenty of ways to try and tackle those negative feelings and herbs may be one of many things that people have used to sooth the mind since ancient times.