Foraging – Springtime Edibles (Pt 2)

The next forageable in my Springtime Edibles series is another annual plant that really comes into it’s own in Spring – the wonderfully tangy Hairy Bittercress. If you missed the first installment be sure to check it out here.

Hairy Bittercress is easily identifiable by it’s small rosette of cress-like leaves at the base and hair-like foliage growing from the stems under the small white flowers, which bloom in branched clusters from February – September. This common wildflower is likely growing in your garden right now, but if not don’t fret – you won’t have far to go! Hairy Bittercress is considered a problem weed by many gardeners; it can quickly and efficiently establish itself on any waste ground, alongside paths and walls and even amongst rocks and sand-dunes. The plant can be eaten in it’s entirety, roots (dried and ground for flavoring) and all, but the most common use for Bittercress is the addition of the tangy aboveground foliage and flowers to salads and sandwiches. To harvest this plant simply dig up for the roots – being careful of surrounding plants – or cut away at the base for the foliage and wash before use.

Hairy Bittercress may not sound like the most appetising of foragables but it really does make a cheese butty! In addition to bringing some tasty texture to the table, this little wildflower is also nutritious. It’s a good source of vitamins A and C and also contains beta-carotine, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and glucosinolates – which are known to help with removing cancer causing carcinogens from the body.

With all of these benefits it’s a real shame to be fighting this plant in the garden when we could be happily harvesting and utilising it. The phrase ‘if you can’t beat it, eat it’ suits this plant well!

As always I’d love to hear your foraging tips and recipes – sharing is caring! Leave me a message in the comments, happy foraging! ☺

Foraging – Springtime Edibles (Pt 1)

Foraging is about much more than just harvesting plants for their nutritional or medicinal properties, it’s the outcome of an adventurous learning journey with skills that can be transferred to many aspects of life. In order to successfully forage you must get to know your environment intimately which breeds a deep respect and love for the landscape and nature, and expands your knowledge of the geography and biology of your lands.

Spring has arrived here in the UK and with it comes a new bounty of edible plants and flowers that our wonderfully varied eco-system offers up. Fields, hedgerows and gardens are coming alive with a variety of healthy and sustainable alternatives to the mass-produced foods, drinks and medicines on offer in the shops; and they’re all completely free! Here I will share with you some of our family’s tips and tricks for a plentiful foraging session, and some recipes to make the most of your haul. There are far too many plants to list in one post, so I will break it down into a series to be posted every Monday and Saturday – starting today with the wonderful stinging nettle.

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Nettles

Nettles are a truly underrated plant in the UK. Mostly viewed with fear and disdain as ‘those nasty stinging weeds’, these hardy little plants are actually an abundant source of iron, vitamins C and E and fiber. Nettles come in a few varieties, each of them easily identifiable and found in gardens, fields and hedgerows across the country. This post and recipe relates specifically to the stinging nettle. While these plants are available throughout the year, spring is a particularly good time for harvesting. The new top shoots of the nettles are less bitter than the lower parts of the plant and make a fantastically refreshing and healthy tea, the tops can be snipped with scissors – just wear some close-knit gloves to avoid the stingers. Nettles can be harvested any time of the year and from pretty much anywhere, just try to avoid roadsides where the plants will have been heavily polluted and areas that are subject to chemical/insecticide spraying. When brewed as a tea nettles have excellent cleansing properties and also make an absolutely brilliant alternative to shop-bought antihistamines that can be of benefit to both people and animals – the following recipe for nettle and turmeric tea worked wonders for treating our small dog’s severe reaction to a spider bite when the veterinarian prescribed antihistamines failed.

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Recipe for Nettle and Turmeric Tea

  • 1 cup of nettle tops (or whole nettles if preferred)
  • Enough water to cover the nettles in a small pot/pan
  • 1\2 to 1 tsp ground turmeric (to taste)
  • Small pot or pan
  • Jug or bowl
  • Sieve
  • Cup (or jar for storing)
  1. Rinse the nettles in cold water
  2. Place your nettles in a small pot or pan and cover with cold water
  3. Bring the pan to a gentle simmer, not quite a boil
  4. Strain the nettle water into your jug or bowl and add turmeric powder, stirring well
  5. Pour into a cup for drinking or clean jar for storing (in the fridge for a few days, or freeze for months)
  6. Enjoy your healthy, vitamin fueled, cleansing, antihistamine

The above recipe (with or without turmeric) can be sweetened with honey, syrups or fruit juices to taste – and when sweetened and frozen make excellent ice lollies – just pour into a suitable mould or small container (with a stick for holding on to!) and pop in the freezer for a few hours.

As with any food/drink/medicine, there is a risk of intolerance or allergy, for this reason it’s advisable to start with a small quantity. Once you have ascertained it’s suitability for you and your needs you can safely drink 3-4 cups per day in addition to your usual water consumption.

Nettle tea is a great staple and can be used to treat many, many ailments; including hay fever, anemia, skin conditions (including the dreaded acne!), type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. With added turmeric the benefits are further enhanced – turmeric has been widely studied and shown to effectively treat arthritis, heart disease, depression and certain cancers; along with a plethora of other illnesses, diseases and disorders.

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Recipe for Savoury Crispy Nettles

  • 2 cups nettle leaves
  • Sesame oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Sea salt
  1. Heat the sesame oil and a pinch of garlic powder on high heat in a frying pan
  2. When the oil is very hot, add the nettle leaves
  3. Fry on high heat for approximately 2 minutes, until leaves have darkened and curled
  4. Transfer to kitchen roll for draining
  5. Once drained, transfer to a dish and season to taste with garlic powder and sea salt

This recipe can be adjusted to suit preferences – try using different oils and seasonings to create your own signature nettle snack.

I hope you enjoy foraging for and experimenting with the wonderfully versatile stinging nettle – let me know in the comments how your concoctions turn out!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor! This post is not meant to take the place of medical advice. I do however work with many aspects of mental health and can attest to the benefits of turmeric for depression.

Preparing For Long Term Travelling With Children – Tips And Advice

Our little family is now in the final stages of preparation for our 6 month bickepacking adventure. For many people the idea of rough travelling with children is an impossible one, but this type of paired-down travel can be hugely enjoyable and beneficial for people of all ages. In this post I aim to shed some light on a process that so rarely involves children, and hopefully encourage more parents to take the leap and wander. Read on for hints, tips and advice on making the planning process as simple and enjoyable as possible.

Mental Preparation

Helping your child to mentally prepare for a big trip is the key to overall success. With a little forethought and consideration you can ensure that your child is not only ready to manage the practical preparations, but will enjoy it all too.

A good place to start is to have a group talk about expectations Vs reality – what each person expects each phase to look like; from the planning right through to the return journey. Making sure that everyone is aware of and understands the realities of your plans is essential for stress-free traveling, particularly when you’re traveling with children.

Talk about the wide-ranging benefits of travel – what they will directly gain from the experience. The opportunities to learn about nature, environment, history, geography and culture; meeting new and interesting people, and the quality time together shouldn’t be underestimated or undersold. Children generally enjoy the kinds of active learning that travelling affords and often don’t even register that they are learning, to them it’s just fun and interesting play that comes with the added bonus of your time and attention.

If you find that your little one’s are still less than enthusiastic about your travel plans – which may be the case, they’re sacrificing a lot of ‘norms’ – it’s important to show them that you take their concerns seriously. Discuss any worries and present positive solutions, using a simple ‘pro’s and cons’ chart is a great way to promote the positive aspects in a visually stimulating way.

Route Planning

Encourage your children to participate in the route planning. This is something that even very young children can help with, and the feeling of being involved will boost a child’s good feelings about the journey.

Older children can actively engage with map reading, route plotting, and area and attraction research; while younger children will be content with ‘helping’ you to plan, and being given the opportunity to contribute ideas.

This phase of the preparations is a fantastic learning opportunity for children of all ages. The scope for learning is large and varied, and adaptable to suit the capabilities and interests of each individual child. A variety of topics can be covered in a hands-on manner including geography, maths, history and English.

Skills in research, planning, time management, visualization, problem solving and teamwork can all be built and honed during this phase of preparation; and all you need to do to take advantage of these opportunities is simply allow the children to get involved.

Physical Preparation

It is of course vital to physically prepare your children as well as you prepare yourselves.

If you’re planning a self-propelled trip, ie. Walking or cycling, it’s important to make sure that everyone knows everyone else’s physical capabilities. A travelling group is only as fast as it’s slowest member. Knowing and accepting this early on will save a lot of grief later, and should also ensure that you’re schedule and route plan are realistic and achievable.

It’s a good idea to start these preparations with a local day trip, travelling with your group in the manner in which you intend to on The Trip; monitoring your time spent moving vs distance traveled, food and water consumption. This will give you a more of an idea of what is needed and how much distance your group can comfortably cover over the course of a day – but keep in mind any additional weight that will be carried on The Trip. The emphasis of a first outing should be to have fun as this is the time when any unconvinced children will be brought on board – if it’s done right! Make sure that you plan and prepare as thoroughly for this short trip as you would for a full treck, and make the destination one which the children will be happy to arrive at. Allow for regular rest/snack breaks, keeping in mind that a child will tire and become hungry sooner than an adult, and make the journey itself as fun and interesting as possible. There are lots of fun games and competitions that you can take on the road – we particularly like quizzes like “what am I?” and nature hunts such as these Spotting Sheets from The Wildlife Trusts. Field guides and pocket guides – we love Collins Food For Free – are also great for en-route learning and foraging (separate post on foraging coming soon!). Keeping children engaged will prevent the nightmare boredom from setting in while also providing unique learning opportunities that they just can’t get in a classroom.

The next step is to venture out for a weekend. The planning required for this is similar to that of a day trip; the primary difference being the nights, where you will have to plot a site to pitch up. The information gathered on your day trip should set you up well for ensuring that this trip goes smoothly, just bear in mind the need for additional resources to cover the additional time, and the logistics of setting up of camp. As with a day trip, keeping the children entertained and engaged is important to ensure that your group of campers is a happy one.

Leap Of Faith

The final phase is really exactly as the title suggests – a leap of faith! Now, I know that you probably don’t want to hear that…that what you really want is for me to tell you that as long as you follow my foolproof steps you’re trip will be the best, most awesome, no-fuss immersion into the wonderful world of travelling with kids. But that, my friend, would be a Big. Fat. Lie. No amount of planning and preparation will guarantee you a niggle-free trip, but please don’t panic – what I also know is that you don’t really want that. Honest. The niggles and issues that you will undoubtedly face during your trip are not problems, they’re opportunities. Opportunities for learning, adventure and unity. So go on, take that leap of faith!

 

We would love to hear your stories, tips and advice for travelling with children (and/or pets!) – leave us a comment below! You can also follow us on our new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/lovelearnwanderblog/