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!
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.
Today we are cooking tempura battered dandelions, a real Springtime treat. Famous as a garden weed, this yellow headed plant isn’t often noted for its fantastic healing properties but dandelions are a real gift from nature.
They are a natural anti-inflammatory, used in skincare to treat anti-aging and has a long history as a medicinal plant since the 11th century. Dandelions can provide a welcome boost to your immune system in Springtime. All parts of this special weed are edible. Today the root is used as a trendy substitute for coffee.
Try this delicious recipe to add some freshly washed dandelions to your diet.
Tempura Battered Dandelions
What you will need: Freshly Foraged Dandelion heads (aim for between 15 – 20).
1 Large Egg
125 g Plain Flour
250 ml/1 Cup of very cold water or sparkling water
Aioli Dipping Sauce
2 Egg yolks
4 Tablespoons of White wine vinegar
120 ml Olive oil
3 Cloves of Garlic
1 lemon juiced
2 teaspoons of sea salt
STEP 1 Prepare the batter. The key here is making sure that the water is very cold. Leave it in the freezer for a 2 or 3 minutes if you want. Add the egg to the water, now gently mix in the flour with a spoon until smooth.Heat the vegetable oil in a wok, deep saucepan or deep fat fryer to 180’c.
STEP 2 Prepare the Dandelion heads by gently washing them, removing the stem and leaves. Pat them dry before using them.
STEP 3 Before you start cooking your flowers, prepare your aioli sauce. Mince the garlic, mix the egg yolk and vinegar, whisk in the olive oil, add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
STEP 4 Now is the exciting part. Heat a large portion of vegetable oil in a pot or wok. (Note: Never leave a pan of oil heating alone. Stay with the cooker until you are finished). Sprinkle your dandelion heads with flower, dip into the batter and drop into the hot oil for 2 minutes until they are golden brown. Only do a handful each time.
These delicious snacks are a super healthy way to use your recently foraged treats and some of your staple fridge vegetables.
Alexanders are ripe for picking from April to June. These wonderful wild edible plants pop up everywhere. You will find them growing in park edges, forest edges and near coastal regions. It tastes like a mixture of celery and parsley, making it the perfect pairing for stir-fry’s and a lot of Asian dishes. If you are a vegetarian then you will welcome this addition to your vegetable list.
Try boiling the stems and leaves and making a substitute for pepper from the flower heads. The seeds are spicy acting as a healthy addition to your spice rack. You will see that many chefs use the roots, roasting them with a little olive oil and salt (as you would normally do with roasted carrots and parsnips).
Here is our little Alexander recipe for you to try out at home.
Alexander Spring Rolls
Spring Roll Wraps 2 cups of flour 2 tablespoons of corn starch 3/4 cup of very cold water 1 heaped teaspoon of salt Tip: Once you have combined the ingrediants to form your dough leave it to the side for 20 minutes while you prepare your filling.
Spring Roll Filling Finely Chopped Alexender Leave Finely chopped Alexander stems (about a handful) 1 bunch of wild garlic leaves Red Chilli Finely chopped yellow onion Yellow pepper sliced finely Diced cucumber 3 Tablespoons of Oyster Sauce Salt and Pepper
Gently saute the filling ingredients in a hot pan for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl beat an egg.
Now make 8 dough balls from your wrapping mixture. Spend time rolling out each ball until it is as thin as you can get it.
Add the filling to the centre of your wrap.
Brush the rest of the inside with egg to help stick the wrap together and roll them up.
We hope that you have fun trying this wild recipe and sharing your Alexander Spring Rolls with friends.
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.
What music do you listen to when you are out for a walk in nature? Mostly, we tend to listen to the trees around us or the rivers running or the birds whistling but a good forest walk playlist with the right beats can put a spring in your step.
Here are some of our favourite songs to listen to when we are out in the forest:
It was hard to narrow this list down to the above but we finally managed. Do you have your own forest walk playlist? We would love to hear your favourite tunes for outdoor listening. Send them to us below and we will add them to the list.