week #23 foraging

I’ll come clean. This was largely about my love of elderflower and so I needed a challenge week to be built around an opportunity to try making elderflower cordial. Early June is peak time for the flowers and here we are. After weeks of glorious weather I gathered the blooms in wind and driving rain, gingerly picking nettles at the same time for soup and tea.

Ideally I would have done my foraging challenge on one of those day courses that you do with a guide, cooking it all up over a campfire at the end of a day’s gathering of wild goodies. However, that was not to be.

I did wonder whether I could have combined this with the insect protein challenge in week #14 as there certainly was plenty of wildlife which I carefully rescued whilst washing off the flowers. I don’t particularly like the smell of elderflower on the branch and to be honest when I put it all in the pot to steep overnight it smelled pretty bad. However by the morning some miracle of chemistry had occurred and the rest of the family were commenting on the wonderful smells wafting around the house.

In the meantime the nettle soup was simmering away also smelling slightly odd although not unpleasant and I was feeling smug because I’d managed to pick and wash the lot without getting stung. I have learned that there are various types of edible nettles but I just picked your basic stingers which are abundant in my local woods. If you check out the health benefits though you’ll find plenty to recommend them, with high levels of antioxidants, polyphenols and potential blood sugar lowering properties.

After a careful straining to remove all the bits I decanted 2 litres of elderflower nectar into sterilised bottles and tested one with ice and tonic water. Absolutely delicious! I was so pleased with how it turned out and it’s would definitely go brilliantly in a G&T or cocktail. I used golden caster sugar and I like the slight golden colour it gave the cordial.

So how was the nettle soup? Well you could say that almost anything would taste good with the addition of garlic, onions and a dab of cream but actually it was tasty and I’d eat it again. I also used a few fresh leaves for nettle tea and that was not bad either.

The other ‘foraging’ I thought I would mention is mint or sage from the garden. Either of them really make the most delicious tea or addition to salads and other dishes. I’m growing two kinds of mint this year. Mint is almost impossible to kill off and is happy in a patio tub so that’s an idea for a bit of micro-foraging. The nettle and mint fresh leaf tea combo was also good!

I was really happy with how this turned out. I will definitely make the cordial again. How nice to have a seasonal treat to look forward to making each year. Low cost, locally sourced and an adventure for the tastebuds.

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