We are very lucky and live close by the Gorenendaal forest. We are lucky because if we didn’t live close to nature, where I could go and ground myself from time to time, I would have probably gone crazy while raising small children and my whole family would be miserable. Luckily both my kids love nature (as if there was a choice…) and N. has learned to appreciate it on new levels as well during our walks. Though today he stepped on some Scottish highland cow poop (sorry N., that wasn’t deer poop. I just researched that). He wasn’t too happy about that. Anyway, back to the topic…
So for my birthday my dear friend Patri gave me this Dutch book about wild foraging in the Netherlands:
It was a great gift because a)it is a book and all books are amazing gifts and b)it’s a book very relevant to my interests (at least some of them – my interests are a bit scattered all over the place). So I’ve read the book and really liked it because it has lots of information about the wild plants it includes. A bit of botanical and nutritional info, a bit of lore and a few recipes. Some plants were stuck in my head, cause I have been seeing them all around this time of the year. However, I never harvested them within the city, because no matter how small it is, there are still cars going around and dogs and cats peeing and pooping everywhere. Which is fine, I mean, as we now know, huge furry cows poop on the forest plants… But the car pollution thing really puts me off.
So today was a rainy Sunday. Not heavy rain but a drizzle that kept going. We wore our raincoats, put all our stuff in Loulou Maya’s swim class (water-proof, yay!) and headed to the forest. And here is what we came back with.
Picking blackberries was the main purpose of our trip to the forest. They are in season now and we are going back in a couple of weeks again, as the bushes are bursting with fruit that’s about to get ripe. N. got pretty enthusiastic about picking them too and that’s handy since he is about double my height (I am exaggerating. A little.). His sweater kept getting caught in the bushes, which is what Loulou Maya had to fight with last time, when we went berry-picking and she had her tutu-skirt on. Life lessons. Also, nature fights back.
Anyway, today we also got some more goodies, that I ‘ve spotted in the book:
Plantago, yarrow and dandelion greens. Loulou Maya helped me both harvest them and clean and sort them out. We washed them thoroughly at home and chopped them up in big pieces.
We also got nettles. At some point, somewhere, I ‘ve read that if you want to pick nettles for tea and want it to have the highest concentration in nutrients, you have to harvest the young nettles, before they bloom. But then, in the awesome book Patri got me I read a great recipe called “Stinging Nettle Caviar”. What you do basically is harvest the nettles, use them to make a pie or soup or whatever and roast the seeds with a bit of garlic and use them as a topping on your toast! A little note on nettle tea: like with all herbal teas, if you have any condition and/or are taking medication, ALWAYS consult your doctor before drinking it. My dad is on blood thinners and was really happy he cured his chronically bleeding gums. Well, guess what, he was drinking nettle tea from the urban jungle that is his rooftop garden and it messed up his blood thinners. You can read more on groups that need to be cautious with nettles as well as more on its health benefits here.
So what we decided to cook with our wild, edible greens was a “Forest Soup”. We just dumped in the pot all our wild greens (including nettle leaves, but not the seeds, that we made “caviar” with), one big onion, some garlic, salt, pepper, some dried mushrooms, a bit of olive oil and 1,5 cup of rice. We simmered everything together for 20 minutes on low heat and once it was done I took the pot off the heat and dumped in about 10 cherry tomatoes cut in half as well. I served it with a bit of yogurt topped with the “caviar” (if vegan, I ‘d add soy and not coconut. Or maybe add some turmeric in the soup and then indeed put coconut? Not sure).
It was really delicious. It really was. Though I can imagine that a soup with mushrooms, rice, onion and garlic would already taste quite good, so not sure how much my wild greens contributed, but we thoroughly enjoyed the whole process, from our forest walk to preparing the wild greens to cooking and eating them. I highly recommend it!