This week, we were joined by culinary creative Annie Levy who led an online #cookalong on the Hunger Gap.
In the session, Annie encouraged us to think about wild greens/ weeds/ invasive plants of spring as food for the Hungry Gap - the time in late winter early spring before crops come in.
Here is Annie's recap...
I don't see myself as a forager, more as a creative cook and opportunist for free, nutritious food with no ecological impact when gathered mindfully - and was happy therefore that our session was sponsored by the Climate Action Scheme of the National Lottery Community Fund Wales. I also believe that in some apocalyptic climate chaos future, knowing how to eat nutritious wild vegetables will be important. We need to re-skill.
I talked about how in many parts of the temperate world there are numerous traditions of gathering extensive wild-growing greens of spring- most notably "Horta" in Greece but all over the world. We in Britain perhaps have lost much of an earlier knowledge but do have a passion for Nettle Soup and more recently Wild Garlic (Ramson) Pesto - pesto being a way of using herbs that comes from a broadened sense of world cuisine. If we think of these greens as "spinach," we can be liberated in our cooking.
It's this inspiration from flavours around the world that informs my approach last night-- using easily accessible and common, prolific "weeds", steamed or boiled, then blanched in cold water and squeezed dry.
I had gathered Nettles, Garlic Mustard, Wild garlic leaves, Cleavers, Ground Elder, Dandelion leaves, Yarrow and Rose Bay Willow Herb shoots.
Others mentioned Ground Ivy and Hogweed. (You may know many of these plants by alternative names. Always be sure that what you are picking and eating is what you think it is!)
I wanted my approach to feel really do-able. With the greens wrung dry, they can be dressed as in a salad, or sautéed. Greens prepared this way are wonderful in noodle and rice dishes, to be served hot or cold, in omelettes and frittatas and tarts, pizza, curries and stews.
I prepared a buckwheat noodle salad based on a Korean recipe I love. Link to recipe here.
I also made an Italian flavours spaghetti dish in which I sautéed the blanched greens mixture in garlic and olive oil, and chilli flakes, before mixing with the pasta , garnishing with raw chopped wild garlic, and a squeeze of lemon.
Blanched greens and spaghetti
-Sauté several cloves of sliced garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil.
-Add chopped blanched greens (as few or as many as you like) and sweep around the heated oil until flavoured.
-Mix with boiled pasta. I used spaghetti. Linguine would be nice.
-Add chili flakes to your taste, garnish with raw, finely chopped wild garlic leave.
Justine shared a recipe for a vegan Ground Ivy Tart that used greens blanched the same way and shared a link to Wild Food Story's amazing website.
Feel free to mix and match varieties, aware perhaps that certain mixes might be more bitter or chewy than is preferred, as one participant insightfully queried.
Vaida suggested that we can use the steaming/ boiling water (which has lots of goodness in it) for an old fashioned and traditional Welsh Nettle Pop - sweeten it and add fizzy water! I have begun, at this very moment, a version that is sweetened with Elderflower Cordial and given a probiotic boost with a swig of kombucha, which under pressure will create a naturally fermented fizzy drink. It's fun to watch the green nettle "tea" magically go pink with the addition of the sugar. And no waste!
Please feel free to write to me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Instagram @kitchencounterculture and Gather Ye Nettle Tops While Ye May :)