Pickled Chanterelles for the Festive Season

pickle


Pickled oak milk caps – Lactarius quietus

This year I have been putting a lot of thought into Christmas presents for the family and I also have a bit of a glut of delicious wild mushrooms in my stores, so I thought I’d share a pickled mushroom antipasti recipe with you which is delicious as a cold salad and can be made with many types of fresh and dried wild mushrooms.

 

To prepare the pickle from previously dried mushrooms you must first marinade them correctly for 24 hours to soften them. Ideally, if you can, use mushrooms that you have dried at a low temperature (less than about 45 deg) as when they re-constitute they will be a lot more similar to the fresh mushrooms that you started off with.

Marinade for dried mushrooms

To marinade dried mushrooms for use in pickle or elsewhere this is the procedure that I follow. I put the mushrooms in a pint glass until it is three-quarters full, then add a 50/50 mixture of just boiled water and cold tap water so that the mushrooms are just covered. Next I add:

  • Half a teaspoon of salt
  • Half a teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 2 cloves of beaten/crushed garlic
  • A generous dash of balsamic or elderberry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 
  • A generous grind of black pepper

Stir the mixture thoroughly, cover it with a saucer and leave it to stand for 24 hours for some marinading magic!

Preparing the wild mushroom antipasti

If you are using fresh mushrooms then make sure that you cut away and remove any blemishes or brown areas that might be caused by food spoilage organisms. If you are using dried mushrooms you will of course have done this prior to the drying process.

preparations

The ingredients are assembled. It goes against the grain but the mushrooms must be thoroughly cleaned – meaning washed if necessary!

Equipment

  • Stainless steel or non-reactive saucepan
  • Sterilised jars with lids
  • A sterilised food sieve
  • A sterilised ladle
  • A sterilised tablespoon
  • A boil washed tea-towel or similar that has been through a thorough rinse-cycle to remove any traces of detergent

Ingredients

  • 1.5 litres of chopped fresh mushrooms or marinated dried mushrooms
  • 1 litre of white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar (a little less refined perhaps but I enjoy its full flavour and bite)
  • 600 ml of water
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 4 bay leaves
  • A sprig of rosemary
  • A tablespoon of thyme
  • 10 cloves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • A generous amount of olive oil (not extra-virgin, and avoid ‘pomace’ oils which are often contaminated with hydrocarbon solvents)

Method

Add all of the ingredients except for the olive oil to the saucepan and bring them to a rolling boil. Add the mushrooms and bring the liquid back to the boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes for small mushrooms and up to 10 minutes if you are using larger pieces or whole button mushrooms. Note – some mushrooms, for example the more acrid milk caps eaten in eastern Europe and the Baltic countries, require longer boiling times. The method given here is for mushrooms that can normally be safely eaten using typical western European preparation methods such as frying.

pickling

Remove the mixture from the heat, pour it through the sterilised sieve into the sterilised bowl, cover and allow to cool. Boiling the mushrooms in the vinegar-brine mixture has sterilised them so DO NOT handle them from now on with fingers or un-sterilised utensils.

Once cooled transfer the mushrooms onto the clean tea-towel and folding it in use it to carefully press out any excess moisture. Do not attempt to wring the mushrooms as they are supposed to contain a little vinegar brine and their appearance will be spoiled if you squash them.

drying

Bottle the pickling vinegar-brine mixture for later use. You can re-use it a number of times as its low pH (very acidic) means that it will not go off.

You can now transfer the mushrooms to the sterilised jars. The best way is to add a layer at a time followed by a very slowly poured layer of olive oil, stirring gently between layers. This will remove the majority of air bubbles which could lead to storage problems. Once you have filled the jars in this way and the mushrooms are completely covered by a centimetre or more of oil, then fasten the lids tightly. Remember to include some of the spices that you cooked them with!

Keep pickled mushrooms in a cool dark place for at least one month before opening, preferably two. Once opened refrigerate them and use them up within a couple of weeks to avoid the risk of spoilage. Always use a clean spoon to ladle them out.

That’s it, enjoy! I hope you like my pictures of the pickled trumpet chanterelles that I made as Christmas presents for my family yesterday 🙂

At The Wild Side of Life we don’t sell pickled mushrooms, but if you’d like an original present why not purchase one of our courses where the lucky recipient will learn all about how to identify, forage and prepare wild mushrooms correctly such as these? We have a 4 day course and several 1 day courses programmed for Autumn 2016!

Autumn Mushroom Season Update 2015

The 2015 autumn mushroom season is well underway now, with choice chanterelles, porcini, saffron milk caps, chicken of the woods and many other things being found over much of the country. Things in Wiltshire and parts of the south /south west have kicked off pretty early due to the unusually cool and damp summer that we have been having, and if we receive sufficient rain as autumn progresses we could be in for a long mushroom season! It’s a great time to dust off that wicker basket, grab a small kitchen knife and get out there in the woods and fields to do some mushroom hunting

… as I write this I am tucking into a sumptuous omelette of forest mushrooms and preparing this year’s batch of amethyst deceiver vodka (a Russian speciality) after spending much of the past 3 days hunting for and eating gourmet mushrooms.

Omelette in progress

Amethyst deceiver vodka and a collection of wild mushrooms destined to be an omelette!

We have some great courses for you this autumn including the Secret Sunday Mushroom Club (recommended by BBC Countryfile Magazine as a way to learn to pick mushrooms safely) and our extremely popular Gourmet Mushroom Discovery Days with foraging and mushroom tasting that will delight chefs and foragers alike. We are hosting the UK’s first 2 day Medicinal Mushroom Conference in November where some well known authors, foragers, mushroom growers and herbalists (Roger Philips, Matthew Rooney, Fred Gillam, Cristina Cromer) will team up to raise awareness among health care practitioners and the general public about the benefits of medicinal mushrooms. After a short pause to take stock over the middle of winter, we will start 2016 with our Small Game Preparation course and the very popular St. George’s Mushroom Champagne Picnic in early May. We’ve got things happening in Wiltshire, Lincolnshire, Somerset, The New Forest and the Gower in South Wales, as well as leading foraging team building events throughout the autumn – so you are keeping us on our toes!

We’ve just heard that Vegetarian Living Magazine will be running a feature on mushroom foraging this coming October entitled ‘On The Toadstool Trail’ featuring exclusive hints and tips from our very own Fred the Forager (who brings 32 years of mushroom foraging experience to your table), so do look out for that… or you can get an exclusive member’s preview… here

secret sunday Mushroom clun

The Secret Sunday Mushroom Club in action

Starting in mid September – The Secret Sunday Mushroom Club: 18.5 hours of tuition spread over 4 non-consecutive Sundays and over several excellent habitats. Watch the occurrence of mushrooms change as the season progresses and see them at all stages of growth. Includes a guest ticket for one day and 12 months email support with identification. Locations are given out a few days before each meeting to allow time for reconnaissance, ensuring the best chances of success! Click the link for info and dates. Cost: £145.00. Gift vouchersGift Certificates also available.

Available from September through November – Gourmet Mushroom Discovery Days: A day out in the woods encountering choice edible species and some of the most significant poisonous ones. Get to know your death caps, destroying angels, fool’s funnels and deadly webcaps before learning to find the choice species such as ceps, chanterelles, blewits, bay boletes and more, then enjoy your finds with speciality breads and a glass or two of wine in the woods. Click the link for info and dates. Cost £90.00. Gift vouchers also available.

November 14th and 15th – The UK’s First Medicinal Mushrooms Conference: A full weekend discovering the healing potential of medicinal mushrooms, including guided foraging, talks, presentations and demonstrations by Roger Philips (author of “Mushrooms”), Matthew Rooney (the UK’s only bio-dynamic medicinal mushroom cultivator at www.mushroomtable.com), Fred Gillam (Fred the Forager and author of “Poisonous Plants in Great Britain”), Martin Palmer author of “Medicinal Mushrooms – A Clinical Guide”), Cristina Cromer (Medical Herbalist and former lecturer in herbal medicine at the University of Westminster) and Natascha Kenyon (forager and concocter of medicinal potions at The Wild Side of Life). Prices vary on a sliding scale – see conference web page.

preparing turkey tail


Preparation of turkey tail mushroom full spectrum extract, an immune modulator

Saturday March 12th – Small Game Preparation: This one day course will take you through all of the basic skills and knowledge required to prepare small game such as rabbits, pheasant or wood pigeon in the field for food. Not for gratuitous hunters or those who see hunting as sport, this course is designed to equip those who choose to eat meat from the wild with the necessary skills to do so with as little waste as possible, and teach relevant knowledge about hygiene, knife skills, game, roadkill and the law. Cost £85.00. Gift vouchers available.

Starting in April – The Secret Sunday Spring Forager’s Club: 18 hours of tuition spread over 4 non-consecutive Sundays and over several excellent habitats including ancient woodland, chalk grassland and river meadows. Learn to identify, gather and use a wide range of spring foraged ingredients including wonderous wild garlic, tasty burdock shoots, tender hogweed fiddles, crunchy pignuts, citrussy pine candles and more. You will also learn how to avoid Europe’s most poisonous plants. Click the link for info and dates. Cost: £130.00. Gift vouchers available.

Saturday 7th or Sunday 15th May – St. George’s Mushroom Champagne Picnic: The weather should be warming up now and there is nothing nicer than a champagne picnic in the spring sunshine. You will be taught how to seek the delicious St. George’s mushroom effectively, how to identify it beyond any doubt and how to combine it with other spring wild food ingredients to the greatest effect.We will enjoy a foraged dish of super St. George’s and wild herbs in the afternoon along with some glasses of bubbly and sample a range of other sumptuous wild food treats. Cost £85.00.

st george's basket

A basket of delicious St. George’s mushrooms in the spring

Don’t forget our gift vouchers make a wonderful surprise gift for anyone, whether it is for Christmas, someone’s birthday or just for the joy of giving something special to someone you love. I hope to see you all out in a wood or meadow sometime over the coming season, or perhaps next spring picking St. George’s mushrooms. Until then, have a truly wonderful mushroom season, may it be both bountiful and fascinating!

Best Wishes

Fred the Forager / The Wild Side of Life

A Day with the Bohemian Mojo Project

The following extract comes directly from //www.bohemianmojo.com/index.php/129-fff and you can read it directly (with images from the day) 

The Wild Side of Life is proud to support the wonderful, inspirational Bohemian Mojo Project

“The idea of foraging conjures images of grubbily rooting through muddy undergrowth in the heart of some primeval forest. This was only half true on our amazing day with Fred Gillam, the foraging wizard…

 Part I

The morning was cold, windy and threatened of a downpour as we piled in the car, trying our darnedest not to be victim to Mojo Meantime again! Today we were foraging with Fred Gillam, the amazing forager. We didn’t yet know just exactly how amazing he was but were excited to find out.  I have to admit even though I was excited to sightsee I was a little skeptical at what we might be foraging at Uffington White Horse which was where we to start our adventure for the day. What could we possibly forage on an open hillside? Didn’t foraging require the dank, damp, and brooding underbelly of ancient forests???

Fred met us in the parking lot; only slightly behind schedule we bundled up and began heading up the hill.  As we stepped out onto the expanse, I couldn’t help but pause for a moment to take in the amazing view around the valley, sobering my thoughts as I tried to imagine how this must have looked centuries upon centuries ago and Fred began filling us in on some ancient history.  Suddenly, it occurred to me that this was going to be no ordinary day; we were in the presence of yet another MajicMaker and could expect an adventure for sure.

As we fought the wind and traipsed up the hill Fred began pointing out the flora and fauna and my eyes began to see the landscape in a whole new way.  We befriended Nettle, tasting its succulent little leaves with no adverse effects (once Fred taught us the secret). We collected small bits of Yellow Dock, Amaranth, and even sampled some Hawthorne berries.

Walking along the impressive ridge, we worked our way over to Dragon Hill; which possesses an unassuming, yet somehow riveting presence. Legend has it that this is where St. George slew the Dragon (a legend I find quite distasteful for a variety of reasons) and the small, bare spot in the middle of the hill that will grow no foliage is where the Dragon’s blood was spilt.  I liked Fred’s suggestion much better that this was indeed a place for ritual and sacred activities.  There is a Hawthorne tree at the entrance to the hill so I picked a few berries and walked onto the plateau, allowing the land itself to draw me in. The sensations that happened next were unexplainable as I felt a heaviness settle onto my heart, perhaps it is no accident that Hawthorne grows in ready reach. 

As the wind buffeted, I left the hilltop filled with a sense of having touched the primordial pulse. As I was wondering how to clear my head and my senses and dive back into the day, the most perfect downhill slope presented itself…Nothing for it but to tuck and roll! It was perfect medicine as I bounced down the hill, smelling the sweet grass and rich earth with each rotation, finally coming to rest on the valley floor. Silly with laughter and a bit dizzy, I was ready to plunge on to the next phase. Looking back up the hill to see if there were any other takers, I clapped and cheered as Fred the Forager and Michelle follow suit, bounce, bounce, bounce. After a little more wandering and learning we made our way back to the cars, ready to get some lunch and continue to the Savernake forest. 
As we left White Horse Hill, I again was struck by the history and pre-history of this place, stopping on the car park ridge for one final sweeping glance of appreciation.

 Part II

We got to the Pub for lunch just in time as the sky opened the floodgates and rain poured. After our lunch of traditional fish and chips, cider, and plenty of heartwarming conversation we were now fast friends and ready to move on to the Savernake Forest….but not without stopping first at King Alfred’s blowing stone. The Mojo team was a twitter, what the heck was a blowing stone??? According to legend, the blowing stone was how King Alfred summoned his troops to fight off the Viking hoards and further legend reports that anyone capable of blowing the stone correctly, which will allow it to be heard up on White Horse Hill, is the future King of England.; Needless to say, none of us are going to be ordained as royalty any time soon. We all took several attempts, allowing ourselves to settle into the good humor of the ridiculous attempts to make a stone produce a magical note. By the time we were all light headed from our attempts, we decided it was time to continue to the Savernake. On to the mushrooms!!

The Grand Avenue into the Savernake Forest is impressive. The ancient trees and overgrowth instill a sense of mystery and hushed appreciation. We climbed out of our cars and were immediately regrouped by Fred’s command that for the next few hours we pick nothing, touch nothing, that he didn’t approve of first. We had no idea there were so many varieties of mushrooms with so many adverse effects! The rest of the afternoon was spent rummaging under fern leaves, looking into piles of leaves and the underside of felled trees. Majken proved to be the master of forest foraging. Her skillful eye and quick hand soon filled our foraging basket under Fred’s careful and informative tutelage. Soon we had enough mushrooms and other foliage like wild cress and rocket to compliment a lovely dinner. The rain began to pour again so we decided to adjourn to Bridge Cottage and prepare our day’s efforts. Alun graciously provided and prepared wild partridge. Fred cooked up our mushrooms, and the rest of us tossed up a wild salad and poured the wine we had acquired just the day before in Wales.

Dinner was served!! Cheers to fabulous friends, foraging and rekindling curiosity for forgotten times.”

With warm thanks to Stephanie, Michelle, Majken and of course Alun!

Wild Side of Life – Spring Newsletter 2015

Hello Wildsiders!

Spring is here and as the soil begins to warm up, things are also warming up in the foraging world. I’m going to tell you about all the exciting things we are up to this year in a moment, and I am also going to share a recipe with you… a simple recipe so good that having just drained my second bowl I am left wanting more! 

Wild garlic, young stinging nettles and the herb known as cleavers are to be found in many many places around the UK at this time of the year, and I am going to tell you in a minute how to make a truly rewarding thick soup using just these three common plants. It is so ‘moreish’ that you will want to go out picking the ingredients every single day!

I’m just pausing for a little more of that soup… One day they will invent a ‘click to taste’ button but right now there is only one way to taste this and that is to go and make it for yourself. Once you have checked out the offerings in this newsletter, scroll down and check out this beautiful recipe… and thanks go to the talented Natascha Kenyon for having created all three bowls full 🙂

First, here are my spring offerings to you from The Wild Side of Life. Click the links to find out more:

SPRING FORAGING

St. George’s Mushroom Champagne Picnic (only a few places left)
We will forage for this beautiful spring mushroom that sometimes grows in HUGE rings, cook it together with other wild foraged ingredients, then enjoy with a glass or two of champagne! Delicious! Happening on the 26th April so book now!

Secret Sunday Spring Forager’s Club (only a few places left) 
An in-depth foraging experience where you will receive 18.5 hours of expert tuition in different habitats over the spring season. Bring a guest along for a feast, and send pictures of the foraging finds you make outside of the course to our private mailing list for identification. Starting in 2 weeks – book now!

Pignuts, Fiddles and Burdock
A special day focusing on finding and cooking these 3 ingredients in imaginative ways… it’s all about the taste and there will be plenty of it as we combine these exciting foods in a multitude of ways! We will also be walking through some stunning scenery on this day and will stop to eat out packed lunches in one of Wiltshire’s remotest spots near an ancient burial chamber of the Marlborough Downs.

Private mentoring in sap tapping and spring wild food cookery is also available, contact me to arrange: Fred@thewildsideoflife.co.uk

HERBALISM WORKSHOPS

Herbal First Aid Weekend 
On this weekend you will learn to identify many useful medicinal plants from the English hedgerows and use them to make between 15 and 20 remedies to treat common ailments that most of us encounter at some time or another. You will take home tinctures, elixirs, teas, electuaries, infused oils, capsules and salves for your own home pharmacy, along with the skills and knowledge to make them again and again.

Winter Remedies Weekend
Many of us tend to suffer a bit in the winter in our temperate climate. Coughs, colds, influenza, chilblains, aches and pains brought on by damp. Lots of conditions are exacerbated by the damp cold of winter and on this weekend you will learn to identify many useful medicinal plants from the English hedgerows and use them to make between 15 and 20 remedies to treat common winter ailments. You will take home cough remedies, immune enhancing mushrooms, anti-inflammatory teas, elixirs, capsules and salves for your own home pharmacy.

UK First Medicinal Mushrooms Conference
A conference held at a 5-star venue in rural Lincolnshire with practical woodland foraging & remedy making, guest speakers include Roger Philips (author of “Mushrooms”), Matthew Rooney (Biodynamic Mushroom Cultivator at ‘Mushroom Table’), Martin Powell (author of “Medicinal Mushrooms – A Clinical Guide”), Cristina Cromer (Medical Herbalist and former Lecturer at the University of Westminster) and Fred Gillam (author of “Poisonous Plants in Great Britain”) and Natascha Kenyon from The Wild Side of Life. Please send an email if you are interested to… Fred@thewildsideoflife.co.uk

BUSHCRAFT & WOODLAND BASED CRAFT COURSES

Family Bushcraft Camping Weekend
A weekend for all the family to learn the basics of camp-craft, putting up a ‘basha’ shelter, purifying your own river water, learning techniques for lighting the cooking fire without matches, making cord from tree bark, and much more. An idyllic woodland clearing with a clean flowing river awaits your adventure.

Ancient Pewter Smithing 
Using the ancient ‘cuttlebone’ technique known to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, you will be guided through all the processes needed to cast your own item of unique and attractive jewellery in English Pewter. Some say the look of the molten metal in the fire is like a magical window on creation itself – it is certainly a memorable and inspiring experience. We will do this in a small group over a native hardwood charcoal fire. You will take home a beautiful and unique item to cherish forever.

Coracle Making Weekend
Coracles (skin covered, wooden framed, tensioned boats) of differing designs were once widespread on rivers in many parts of the world and originally covered in animal hide. Since the industrial revolution in Britain they have been covered in calico cloth and waterproofed with tar. Still used for salmon fishing, these versatile and fun craft carry a surprising load and can take you to places inaccessible on foot. Make your own and take it home!

Woodcrafts of the European Nomads (flowers, pegs, baskets and more) – details coming very soon, please drop me an email if you are interested… we will be creating hand crafted items in the woods using the centuries old methods of the gypsies and travellers… baskets, clothes pegs, wooden flowers… and sharing Romany stories and cookery around a roaring camp fire! Fred@thewildsideoflife.co.uk

AUTUMN MUSHROOM COURSES

As featured in BBC Countryfile Magazine’s Top 10 UK Foraging Courses

The Secret Sunday Mushroom Club
Acclaimed foraging experience where you will receive 18.5 hours of expert tuition in different habitats focusing on how to locate and identify with confidence most of the best UK edible species. Fred the Forager regularly uses more than 100 species and there will be plenty of advice on how to build you own repertoire safely. Bring a guest along for a feast on the last day and have the finds you make outside of the course identified by sending your pictures to our private mailing list. Places go fast so book early.

Gourmet Mushroom Discovery Days in Wiltshire, The Gower and the New Forest
If you are looking for an exciting and special one day mushroom experience these days are for you. You will be introduced over the course of the day to some of the finer gourmet mushrooms and shown how to spot the poisonous lookalikes. We will cook our finds in the forest at the end of the day. These courses take place in some of the best locations in the region for fungi, and time will be spent discussing how to pick mushrooms sustainably without detriment to future populations. Take home some wonderful memories and feel free to come back for advice when identifying you future finds.

Gift Vouchers

Did you know that you can buy vouchers for mother’s day, birthdays, Christmas day, practically any day you like from my website? If the course voucher you need is not already available on the shop page, all you have to do is email Fred@thewildsideoflife.co.uk and I will prepare one especially for you with your recipients name on it! 

Here is what people have had to say about receiving our vouchers as gifts…

“My Gourmet Mushroom Discovery Day has simply been a wonderful birthday present. When I first received the voucher I wondered what it would be like but I have had an amazing time and have learned so much! I will never look at the woods in the same way again and I even feel confident enough now to go and pick some of the mushrooms for myself!”

“My son bought me a voucher for Mother’s Day for a day’s foraging tuition with The Wild Side of Life. I have had a lot of fun and I never realised just how much tasty food is out there for the picking. I enjoyed my present very much and I would definitely like to go out again, perhaps on one of the courses next time.”

There is a new loyalty referral scheme that you can join too, meaning that you can get your courses for less if you share the joy with someone else – which is a win-win situation. I am going to email everybody about this very soon so if you are one of our subscribers keep an eye out for it in your mailbox.

MEET US AT EVENTS & FESTIVALS IN 2015

We will be attending a number of food and festival events this year so pop in to our stand for a chat and a foraged fruit leather… we love to meet you all! We will be at the Great WIld Food & Chilli Fair at Molden in Essex on June 27th & 28th. The website for this fabulous event is here. As Fred the Forager I will be running workshops in ‘de-mystifying mushroom identification’, ‘tree foods’ and ‘herbal first aid’ as well as giving a talk on Poisonous Plants. You can find out about all of them here, where you can also pre-book your workshop places at this event.

On May 16th watch out for my talk “The Mushroom Forager’s Tales” in The Real Food & Drink Theatre at the Marlborough Food & Drink Festival in Wiltshire. There will be lots of other talks by well known foodies too, so check their web page to find the schedule.

The Wild Side of Life will be providing foraging workshops and medicinal mushroom talks at both the Green Gathering and Heart of the East festivals / gatherings this year, as part of the AVALON RISING programme.

…and now for the recipe, mmmm enjoy 😉 and don’t forget to check out our presence on Facebook and Twitter

Click here for the Wild Garlic, Stinging Nettle and Cleavers Soup Recipe

Best wishes and happy foraging!
Fred the Forager

Wild Garlic, Stinging Nettle & Cleavers Soup

Wild Garlic, Stinging Nettle & Cleavers Soup (serves 8 to 10)

You will need:

3 big handfuls of fresh wild garlic (Allium ursinum) leaves – be careful that you do not pick any Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum) or lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) by mistake. Look for the parallel veins running the whole length of the leaf and the unmissable garlic smell!

1/4 bucket of fresh stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) tops – just pinch the tops out with about 4 to 6 leaves on each. You might want to wear gloves for this although I teach everyone who comes on my courses how to pick them without being stung.

Two large handfuls of young cleavers (Galium aparine) plants – you might know this as ‘sticky weed’, ‘goosegrass’ or ‘sticky willie’ in some parts of the UK… make sure they are still soft and pliable as in a few weeks they will stiffen up and after that you use only the softer tip of the plant.

Add a large knob of butter or 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive to a saucepan, together with a few twists of black pepper and sea salt. Slowly raise the temperature to cook the seasoning a little but do not let the oil bubble ferociously – a sign that it is too hot. After about 1.5 minutes add a good splash of balsamic vinegar and 600ml of hot water straight from the kettle. Add all of the leaves that you have picked (ideally) chopped into little pieces first.

At this point it should look like this…

Put on a lid, watching the temperature carefully and stirring periodically. You don’t want the soup to get so hot that it boils as this will seriously affect the flavour, but you do want it to reach a slow simmer for a short period to assist in extracting the flavour from the leaves (this will also kill off bugs as it will cook above 74 degrees centigrade, but in practice this is not really a problem when freshly picked leaves are used taken from a clean spot).

Keep an eye on the soup, allowing it to simmer gently for 6 to 8 minutes, then remove it from the heat and transfer it to a blender. Give it a good ‘whizz’ until a thick creamy soup consistency is achieved, then transfer it back onto the heat and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, this time stirring continuously. Some people like to cook a few potatoes, blending them into the soup at this stage as a thickening agent. Whilst I do not think this is necessary it is a matter for personal taste.

That’s it! It is a good idea to keep a little of the garlic back and chop it into shreds to use as a garnish on top of the soup. A little finely grated manchego or parmesan cheese will also work well on top and a couple of tablespoons of live natural yoghurt swirled in to each bowl completes the picture properly… and by the way, every portion combines the effects of these herbs to great effect. 

Serving suggestions…

Wild garlic has a natural antibiotic action and is a circulatory tonic that thins the blood a little and warms up the extremities by opening up capillary circulation.

Lightly cooked nettles provide us with lots of vitamin C and iron, as well as a surprising amount of vegetable protein, not to mention huge amounts of the anti-oxidant chlorophyll.

Cleavers is well known to medical herbalists for supporting and clearing the lymphatic system. In short, this lovely soup is also a good medicine for driving away the last of the winter ailments that we tend to suffer from in our temperate British climate, and giving the whole system a kick-starting detox ready for the year ahead!

CLICK HERE TO SMELL THE SOUP – (ONLY KIDDING!)

You can learn much more about simple wholesome wild food cookery at the Secret Sunday Spring Forager’s Club