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Archive for August, 2012

First things first, eating enough of this forager find is said to help thin your blood, perhaps a good thing if you feel you’ve clogged up your arteries with rather unhealthy bbq/summer meals these last few months. However, even if you live by a healthy routine, i’d definately recommend giving it a go!

Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff

This find is sometimes called ‘wild baby’s breath’ and has a perfume flower that has been likened to vanilla and sometimes sweet hay.

Being a farmer’s daughter this is another smell I know well and hay time was always, without question, the best smelling time of the year!

But we are not here to make Pot Pourri (although it is supposed to be brilliant dried for that very purpose, I could make some for my Grandmother I guess!), we are here to cook. So what’s the crack…?

Well, anyone for a refreshing tonic tea?  Sweet woodruff makes a great cup of herbal tea, infusing both the vanilla and sweet hay flavours to produce a perfect summer brew.

Children may enjoy a glass of sweet woodruff infused milk, however having just looked after my two eight year old nephews I do not think they would have thanked me for sweet woodruff milk! I think they’d have much preferred a fruit shoot! Although they did love my mugwort beef stew (mainly, I think, because they did not know what it was!).

Perhaps I could make them something with wild raspberries, guys there are tonnes of wild raspberries around at the moment, it’s a great day out with the kids and you can all ‘fill your boots’ as they say! I recently went down to the golf woods here at RuddingPark and we made a great dessert from the raspberries we found.

Wild raspberry picking but watch out for those nettles!

Wild raspberry picking but watch out for those nettles!

Back to the ruff…

So what to do with sweet woodruff when you find it? There are so many recipes, from sweet jellies to marinades, syrups, desserts or even some of the more delicate fish dishes.

And more importantly what does it look like and where do you find it? We’re looking for a plant growing about 20cm in height, the flowers are small and white in colour with almost star shaped petals. The leaves are a very lush green colour with pointed tips and bunch together in groups of six to eight. The leaves have little hooks on them that stick to you like Velcro. The season begins in May time, so keep your eyes peeled from then on.

In order to grow sweet woodruff you need mildly acidic soil and shady areas. Even though it is a difficult plant to get going, once it starts it will really take a hold.

So there you have it folks, sweet woodruff is worth the effort to find. It is great in small quantities and is another wonder of this amazing world we love living in….

‘Sweeting out the ruff’ in the Rudding Park woods!

Steph x

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Dear Wild Cooks,

In my eyes, the opportunity to cook for a group of like-minded, fun-loving foragers is one not to be missed. So when I was invited to cook for The International Wine and Food Society’s Leeds branch I accepted without hesitation! The group are definately up for some fun and eager to learn about food and wine that complement foraged ingredients.

The evening seemed made for my foraging friends Chris and Rose Bax of Taste the Wild who lead the foraging walk around the stunning Hillbark Gardens in Bardsey.

Chris offering his expert foraging advice to the group

Chris offering his expert foraging advice to the group


The owners, Tim Gittins and Malcolm Simm, were on hand to look after everyone which was a good job as there was a total of 33 members on the evening.Chris and Rose discussed their foraging finds with the group. The gardens are truly amazing and Tim and Malcolm often have charity open days so keeep a look out on their website www.hillbark.co.uk  . The foraged finds on the evening included sweet cicely, mugwort, pineapple weed, corn mint and bitter cress. They are amazing ingredients folks and I, along with the help of my commis Tim Norton and his partner Becky, cooked up the following menu for the group:

Introducing the dishes

Introducing the dishes


Canapes

Goats Cheese En Croute with Sweet Cicely Seeds
Vegetarian Foragers’ Parcels using Rosebay Willow Herb

Mains

Smoked Trout Marinaded in Elderflower, Chick Weed, Bitter Cress, Wood Sorrel
BBQ Smoked Cherry Wood Mackerel with ‘Jack by the Hedge’ Root 
Pigeon with Nettle Spelt
Rabbit and Mugwort Dahl

Puddings

Forager’s Infusion Chocolate Marquise
Corn Mint and Cumin Granite
Meadow Sweet Biscuit
Ground Ivy Jelly
Wood Sorrel Mojito

Coffee and Lemon Balm Tea

Supper Club!

Supper Club!

Please click on the links above to follow the fun and easy recipes. As we ate the dishes, Chris and Rose passed on more helpful advice. Here is a great extract from their note:

Be aware that there might be a backlash at some point from people who are worried about the countryside being plundered. However, foraging is about understanding and respecting the natural environment and provising that pickers follow a basic code of conduct it can only improve our knowledge and husbandry of the countryside”.

I hope you enjoy the dishes as much as the guests did on the evening. The event was declared a great success and Tim even said it was their best supper club to date which was great to hear. My thanks go to Chris and Rose Bax who made the foraging side so interesting for the guests adn my commis Tim and his partner Becky for their help. Huge thanks must also go to Tim and Malcolm who of course made this evening possible and kindly invited me to take part.

Steph the Forager on tour – supper club style!!

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