Linda Moran – Foraging in Bude
Linda Moran on Bude’s Foraging Trails
Wild Foods, Wild Medicines.
Foraging Around Bude
Bude offers a diverse range of wild edible and medicinal plants. These can be found in the hedgerows, along the canal, the marshes, riversides, the coastal paths and sand dunes. Each microclimate supporting a different cluster of plants, each well adapted to their local environment.
Along the Bude canal where I have run guided herb walks for the last 15 years, we often encounter at least 50 medicinal and edible plants on our short 1 mile walk. However we also meet along the way the most deadly toxic plants in the British Isles. Hemlock, and water hemlock are some examples of the deadly plants that can be found on that walk. So please adhere to my Rules of the Wild I have included at the end of this article for your own and the plants safety and survival.
Foraging top tip: Always get to know your poisonous plants first, especially the hemlocks, as they share the same family as many popular edible plants such as parsley, wild carrot, alexanders, angelicas, cow parsley. Unfortunate foragers still die from mistaken identity.
DON’T BE ONE OF THEM!!
A herb walk or forage in our countryside is a great way to connect us to our local environment. Many of us living in a rural setting regard ourselves as country folk, yet know very little of the plants that make up our local countryside. A few generations ago this would have been a different story. These plants would have provided the only source of medicine for many of our ancestors. However, for many people globally herbal medicine still provides their only form of medicine. The WHO ,World Health Organisation, estimates that 80% of the worlds population still rely on plant medicine for their primary source of medicine.
So a herb walks can connect us to our local environment and reconnect us to our past, that of our rich heritage of traditional medicine and offer a way of introducing a more natural approach to your health care.
Summer foraging. What can I find?
Summer produces many gifts for us to utilise, whether edible or medicinal. Our ancestors would have waited eagerly for those first spring greens. These early seasonal wild plants provided much needed fresh nutrition and medicines after a long barren winter. Fresh green leaves, high in vitamins, minerals such as nettles, dandelion leaves, goosegrass are the classic spring tonics and provided a spring clean for the body. However these can still be utilised throughout the summer either fresh in herbal teas or incorporated into a myriad of recipes. Other leaves such as bitter tasting yarrow, burdock, or aromatic mints (all prolific along the bude canal and surrounding areas), bring an array of flavours to the table. Hawthorn buds begin to break open into a floral delight and its May blossom turns to blood red berries hanging off branches like little jewels. Whilst the delicate scent and taste of the elderflower is the very essence of early summer and heralds the glorious days of the summer season is upon us.
These tasty additions can creep into many main meals, salads, desserts or drinks. A summer harvest stir-fry can combine, pennywort leaves, (which taste very much like mangetout), dandelion, nettle. Salads seasoned with herbs such as yarrow and dandelion leaf can give a bitter bite to a salad. The flowers of dandelion can be sprinkled over salads also. Hawthorn leaves, traditionally called bread & butter, can be picked young also for salads and actually taste quite pleasant. .Elderflowers can be sprinkled onto salads, fruit salads, stewed with gooseberries dipped in batter and deep fried or made into cordial which if frozen makes a delicious sorbet also. Elderflowers properties make a tasty, yet medicinal syrup, which can also be poured onto desserts, yoghurts, custard, cakes. But also used as a medicine, given for runny noses, hay fever and colds.
Foraging starting point: Common plants easily identified.
DANDELION (Taraxacum officinale).
Did you know?
Dandelion is from the French ‘dent de lion’, meaning lions teeth, which alludes to the shapes of the jagged leaves.
A much maligned weed with remarkable medicinal properties. Its common name was ‘wet the bed’, indicating one of its therapeutic uses as a diuretic. Dandelion is highly nutritious and the whole plant is both edible and medicinal.
The leaf is used as a diuretic and are abundant in minerals especially potassium, Iron and Vit B, C. The leaves can be eaten in salads and make an excellent bitter addition. The flower petals can be pulled away from the green part of the flower and sprinkled onto salads or to decorate foods. The flower heads can also be infused into oil to make an external soothing muscle rub. (see recipe). The roots have an action on the liver, stimulating bile production and supporting digestion. The dried root can be roasted in the oven to make dandelion coffee. Dandelion was a common spring tonic. Leaves were eaten in the spring, ‘to cleanse the blood’. Dandelion and Burdock, was a traditional cordial which was strengthening and cleansing. The flower stem exudes a milky white latex sap that traditionally was applied directly to warts to inhibit viral replication.
Where & When to look: Dandelions thrive in most grassy places, meadows, waste grounds, grass verges. You are likely to find dandelions growing all year round.. It flowers from March to November. Top tip Roots are harvested in early spring or autumn, when the plant is dormant. Please note it is illegal to dig up any plant from the wild without permission from the landowner.
Lookalikes: Other members of the Asteraceae family such as cat’s ears (hypochaeris radicata) known as false dandelion, Hawksbit and hawksbeards (crepis spp) have similar flowers and leaves.
CAUTION: Do not use in combination with orthodox diuretics.
RECIPE: Dandelion Soothing Bath Oil/Muscle Rub.
*Pick dandelion flower heads. Ensure they are thoroughly dry with no water residue on.
*Place the flower heads into a jam jar, ideally to the top of jar,
*pour sunflower oil over flower heads and to the neck of the jar. Make sure all flowers are covered. Secure lid tightly.
*Turn upside down several times to mix contents around. Place on a sunny windowsill. Repeat turning mix daily.
*After 3 weeks. Strain through a sieve. Discard spent flowers and decant oil into a clean bottle.
This can be used as bath oil or as a rub for tired, achy muscles.
ELDER [sambucus nigra]
Did you know? Elder was known as ‘poor man’s medicine chest’ as so valued was every part of the plant for its medicinal remedies.
Common elder tree was regarded as a sacred tree to many rural people and was respected as such. Every part of the tree was used and valued. The flowers taken as tea, cordial, syrup or wine and makes an excellent treatment for colds, hay fever and flu. The elderflowers have an action directly on the mucus membranes that line the nasal passages toning and strengthening the lining drying up mucus and reducing catarrh. The flowers also act as an emollient, soothing and moisturising the skin and a cold infusion can be made to soothe itchy irritated eyes.
RECIPE: Try elderflower fritters, which were a Romany delicacy, simply dip the flower heads in batter (flour and water) and deep fry. Sprinkle with sugar or drizzle with elderflower syrup. The flowers can also be sprinkled onto salads, or as decoration for cakes.
The berries are rich in vitamin C, but also research has shown them to have antiviral properties in particular 3 strains of flu virus. Traditionally the berries always formed the base of the ‘hot toddy’ used to keep coughs and colds away. Elderberry makes a useful cough syrup and a lovely full-bodied wine. Small amounts can be added to fruit salads, or mixed with blackberries for hedgerow jam or added to apple pies.
Where and when to look: Elder grows almost anywhere and can be found in hedgerows, woods and waste ground. It flowers from May to June. The berries ripen at the end of August/September.
Lookalikes: Same family as crampbark (viburnum opulus) and shares some similarities. However, the flowers and leaves of crampbark are different to elder.
CAUTION: Do not eat lots of berries raw as they will cause a laxative effect.
RECIPE: Elderflower cordial
Fragrant and refreshing, elderflower cordial heralds the beginning of the long summer ahead. The recipe is so easy to make. However as with all cordials uses a shocking amount of sugar!. Mix with sparkling water to create fizzy elderflower, or add to wine, gin or champagne to start a party in style. Frozen, this recipe makes a delicious sorbet.
20 flower heads of Elder (trim stalks)
2 unwaxed lemons
50g Citric acid
1 Put the sugar and 1.5 litres/2¾ pints water into the largest saucepan you have. Gently heat, without boiling, until the sugar has dissolved. Give it a stir every now and again. Pare the zest from the lemons using a potato peeler, then slice the lemons into rounds.
2Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the pan of syrup to the boil, then turn off the heat. Fill a washing up bowl with cold water. Give the flowers a gentle swish around to loosen any dirt or bugs. Lift flowers out, gently shake and transfer to the syrup along with the lemons, zest and citric acid, then stir well. Cover the pan and leave to infuse for 24 hrs.
3Line a colander with a clean tea towel, then sit it over a large bowl or pan. Ladle in the syrup – let it drip slowly through. Discard the bits left in the towel. Use a funnel and a ladle to fill sterilised bottles (run glass bottles through the dishwasher, or wash well with soapy water. Rinse, then leave to dry in a low oven). The cordial is ready to drink straight away and will keep in the fridge for up to 6 weeks. Or freeze it in plastic containers or ice cube trays and defrost as needed.
NETTLES (urtica dioica).
Did you Know?
Long before Hemp was used for ropes, nettle fibres were woven to form ropes, fishing nets and cloth. The name nettle alludes to this as nettle comes from the Anglo Saxon meaning ‘to twist’
Nettle sting contains formic acid which is also found in ant stings.
The Romans used the sting of nettles to warm their hands and to stimulate circulation when faced with our cold, damp British Climate.
Highly regarded throughout history, nettles were even grown in gardens as a pot-herb, so valued were they as an important food and medicine. They were the first of the spring green foods and eaten and cooked like spinach. High in iron, potassium, calcium, protein, vit A and C, it is higher in iron and vit C than spinach weight per weight. Nettles can easily be added to stews, soups, casseroles, blanched first they then can be added to quiches, frittatas, omelettes.
RECIPE: A favourite family nettle recipe, which one of my sons named ‘Mettle Pie’ is a nettle Homity pie. : Mashed potatoes, boiled nettles, garlic, lashings of butter and cheese with a pastry base.
Nettle simply as a tea makes an interesting, pleasant tea.
Nettles are regarded by herbalists as a blood tonic, flushing out toxins from the body making it useful for arthritis and skin conditions, especially where there is an allergy related problem such as eczema or hay fever.
Foraging tip! Harvest using a pair of scissors. Cut leaves directly off stem and into the bowl. Always blanch before eating. Hot water destroys the fine hairs which contain the sting. Never eat Raw. Cook and use like you would spinach.
Where and when to look: It is said nettles only grow on fertile soil. They can be found growing prolifically in hedgerows, wood margins, meadows, gardens and waste ground. Nettles start growing in March. Do not use leaves after flowering as they contain high amounts of silica which can irritate the kidneys. Pick young leaves.
Lookalikes: Deadnettles (lamium spp. Motherwort (leonurus cardiaca) both look similar, but the nettles stinging abilities are its unmistakable feature.
CAUTION : Do not eat raw! As the plant ages throughout the season it becomes more crystallised with silica deposits. Stick to harvesting new young plants.
Ingredients: Nettle leaves, Ramson (wild garlic) or alternatively garlic mustard leaves (jack by the hedge). Dandelion leaves, oil, nuts or seeds, lemon juice and seasoning.
Put a pot of water on and when boiling place the fresh nettles in for a few minutes to blanch the leaves. This will destroy the sting of the nettles.
Strain well and get as much water out as possible. Add nettles to blender or food processor.
Add dandelion leaves, wild garlic/ garlic mustard, a handful of seeds or nuts of your choice, olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
Pulse until smooth and creamy add pepper and salt to taste.
Nettle & Rosemary Hair Tonic
This is an easy to make hair tonic to strengthen and stimulate growth. It comes from an extremely old recipe utilising nettle and rosemary. These plants are still favoured today in many natural hair shampoos and conditioners. It can be used as a final rinse after shampooing.
1 large bunch nettle leaves
1 large sprig of Rosemary
125 ml of water
125ml of white wine vinegar
1 tsp aromatic herbs (lavender, thyme,)
*Simmer the nettles and rosemary in the water and vinegar for 2 hrs.
*Then stir in the aromatic herbs and allow to cool.
*Strain through a muslin lined sieve, squeeze out all the fluid from the plant matter with a metal spoon. Then decant into clean jar.
RULES OF THE WILD
*Never eat anything from the wild unless you have correctly identified it beyond doubt.
*Good plant/ wild flower identification books, with photographs are preferable to illustrations. Cross reference several books. Better still, grow as many different wild flowers and herbs as you can. Get to know their colours, smells textures. It is much better to know your plants in the ‘flesh’, than solely rely on books for identification.
*Get to know plants throughout the season, fatal Misidentifications have occurred between comfrey leaf and foxglove. So always wait for a few flowers to appear before picking so you can correctly identify the plant. If you can’t identify it, leave it alone!
*Never pick by Roadside verges
Agricultural land :-
(Areas where insecticides/ pesticides may have been sprayed or dogs may have urinated).
*Don’t pick wild flowers.
*Don’t dig up plants (it’s illegal to do this, unless you have permission from the land owner and then ensuring the plant is not endangered).
*Don’t plunder and pillage, (over pick), only take small quantities for what you need.
*RESPECT ALL PLANTS. Don’t trample down other plants to get to your desired one!
About Linda Moran, Medical Herbalist
‘Safe, effective herbal medicine in qualified hands’
Linda Moran Bsc herb med, MNIMH, is an experienced and qualified medical herbalist and has been in practice over 15 years. She is a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH), the largest and oldest professional body for practicing herbalists. Linda runs clinics in Bude and Holsworthy. She gives lectures, herb walks, talks and workshops and delivers courses on herbal medicine, both privately and through Cornwall Adult Education throughout Cornwall.
Herbal Medicine Clinics:-
The Neetside Community centre, Bude
Monday, Wednesday, Fridays 9am-3pm
The Treatment Room, Manor offices, Holsworthy Thursday, 8am-5pm and evening clinics available.
By appointment only.