A simple guide to foraging for free food, where to find it, how to forage responsibly, and sharing some of our favourite recipes.

Autumn Equinox Gathering. A Foraged Wreath

Autumn Equinox Gathering. A wreath for the front door

Autumn Equinox Gathering. A wreath for the front door

There’s a nip in the air as the autumn equinox opens the garden gate and a new season enters. Apples are falling from the trees, crying out to be juiced, dried and turned into crumbles. A bucket of green tomatoes sits in the kitchen waiting to be made into chutney, and the last of the blackberries are winking in the sun. It’s a time for gathering, for bringing in what is ripe and ready and for laying down the stores for winter. I also like to look at what is over in the garden, at the seed heads and plants that can be dried and brought indoors to decorate the house. It’s been a busy few days looking after grandchildren and juicing apples and today I fancied doing something creative, just for me. I thought an autumn equinox wreath to decorate the front door might be a fun thing to make, so took myself off around the garden, secateurs in hand to clip a few bits and bobs.

Poppy seed heads

Poppy seed heads

Beneath the blackberries that grow along the garage wall, poppy heads sway in the breeze and teasels reach for the sky. The goldfinches have had their fill of the teasel seeds and it is now time to gather in those architectural seed heads before autumn’s storms batter them to the ground. Before taking them inside to dry, shake poppy seeds from the dried heads on the ground where you want them to flower next year, and you’ll be rewarded with poppies galore. What glorious forms these two have.

Autumn Equinox Gathering. Honesty seed heads

Autumn Equinox Gathering. Honesty seed heads

Jostling for a place amongst the dock leaves and nettles the honesty has also gone to seed. Don’t be fooled by the murky brown casings – there’s silver treasure inside!

 

Honesty seed heads

Honesty seed heads

Fir Cone Christmas Angel with Honesty WingsA quick rub, front and back, and the casings disappear. Again, scatter the seeds where you will then bring the silver inside before the winds of autumn shred it. I just love honesty in decorations. I used it last year to make wings for Christmas angels.

 

Another plant that romps away in our garden is old man’s beard. We thought it was a fancy clematis when we spotted it on Jim Morrison’s grave in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and pocketed some seeds. However, he breaks on through to the other side whenever given the chance and spills over fences and gateways. Dried, it looks as tousled and as wonderful as the singer himself. Before we dry fennel seeds to make tea or add to our apple and fennel chutney, I’ve lifted a few seed heads and have added all the above in this late summer wreath that is now hanging on the front door.

Autumn Equinox Wreath

Autumn Equinox Wreath

It’s easy to make and uses the same method as making a Christmas wreath. Gather small bunches of whatever you are using: in my case, a seeded flowerhead from old man’s beard, a fennel seed head, a sprig of honesty, a nigella and poppy seed head, and tie to a wreath form using this florist’s wire. You can make your own wreath form by tying willow in a circle and binding or buy one from your local florist, or online. If you can, make your own, I found one in Hobbycraft for a fiver, made from grapevines, but it was made in China! I don’t know how your ethics sit with that and the transport costs involved. It doesn’t have to be willow: a few pliable twigs are all you need. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials for making your own. Try this one from Tuckshop Flowers:

I’m also mindful of collecting the seed heads, grasses and plants that will be dried to make decorations for Yule or Christmas, whatever you call the festive season. I’ll be talking more about having an eco-Christmas as the seasons draw on, and yes, I hear you: it’s too early to be thinking about Christmas, but in a way it isn’t. Sustainable living is so often about preparing, looking ahead, and laying the groundwork for what is to come. Today it is about gathering and drying so we can make decorations that don’t cost the earth in both monetary and environmental terms.

Foraged Christmas Star

Foraged Christmas Star

I made this star a couple of years back, using pampas grass, teasels, honesty, and seed heads stuck very simply into a dry oasis suspended on a garden cane and with a few white led lights strung through. It really was very simple, but very effective. Last year I made angels from fir cones and hung them from red dogwood stems, but I think I’ll revert to the star this year and so am off around the garden to see what can be gleaned. I’ll write up a step-to-step guide for making this Christmas star a bit later on, but let’s dry what we need first. I’ve hung the teasels, nigella seed heads, honesty and poppy heads upside down from the rafters in the garden shed to dry. Anywhere warm and dry will do.

Teasels and honesty hung to dry

Teasels and honesty hung to dry

We planted hops years ago and never got around to using them to flavour beer. They are rampant! Dried, however, and strewn above the fireplace, with a few white lights woven in, they will look wonderful. They are currently drying in the airing cupboard. Be prepared for plant life to temporarily take over the drying areas of your house!

So there we have it, a beautiful wreath for the front door to mark the Autumn Equinox and dried seed heads and hops gathered to decorate the house at yuletide. Time to light the fire and find my knitting! I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing my Autumn Equinox wreath and this moment of mindfulness with you. As we gather early autumn’s offerings, let us have a moment of reflection, and be grateful for the bounty and beauty of Mother Nature as one season passes, and another arrives. Do share your wreath-making or gathering with us on the usual social media channels – we’d love to see what you make.

 

As ever, we’d love you to share your thoughts, either by leaving a comment here or on our social media pages, where this article will be shared.

You can find the Bridge Cottage Way on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

You might enjoy some of the writing and ideas in other sections of this website, as we look towards leading more sustainable lives by growing our own food and creating dishes in line with seasonal eating, or head to our handy ‘Month by Month’ guides to find out what we have been doing here at Bridge Cottage as the months go by:

Many thanks for reading.

With Facebook and Instagram algorithms being fickle friends at times, be sure to get all new posts from The Bridge Cottage Way by signing up for the mailing list here. This will go our four times a year, with the seasons in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. We, of course, will not share your details with third parties, and you have the right to unsubscribe at any time.

Tim & Sue in the Bridge Cottage Way garden

Pickled Wild Garlic, Ransom and Chive Buds

Wild Garlic. Foraging & Cooking Food for Free

Wild Garlic. Foraging & Cooking Food for Free

Have you, like us, been enjoying the tender young leaves of the wild garlic, Allium Ursinum? We shared information on recognising and how to forage responsibly for this pungent plant, plus some of our favourite recipes for using these delicious leaves in a previous post back in March: Wild Garlic, foraging and cooking.

Now April is upon us, and the wild garlic is sending up its buds, soon to burst into beautiful white flowers. There is a window in early Spring when the buds can be harvested to make a deliciously simple pickle. I noticed too that the chives that are growing in a bucket in the greenhouse are also showing signs of buds. Both ransoms, aka wild garlic, and chive buds are delicious pickled. You might also like to try other buds, such as sage? Pep up your salads and add them to sauces for an extra layer of flavour. It’s only a ten-minute job, so why not give it a go?

 

 

 

Pickled Wild Garlic Buds

Pickled Wild Garlic Buds

Ingredients:

Handful wild garlic or chive buds
50g cider vinegar
50g sugar
50g water
Pinch pink peppercorns
Pinch salt
Method:
Begin by making the pickling liquid.
Put vinegar, sugar and water in a pan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Leave to cool.
Once cooled, place wild garlic or chive buds in a sterilised jar and pour over pickling liquid. Place in fridge & leave to pickle for three days before using.

Lasts for up to six months in the fridge.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

Chive Blossom Vinegar

See also the post on making floral vinegars for when the flowers burst open!

We do hope you enjoy foraging for or picking wild garlic, but please remember to forage responsibly, leaving plenty for others and for wildlife.
If you have a shady spot in your garden, you might like to consider growing your own wild garlic. We have! A quick google and I see it can be bought in the green or by seed. Here’s one such site, from garden supply direct. 
Anyone close to us, do pop over and I’ll give you a clump of ours!
Wild Garlic. Foraging & Cooking Food for Free

Wild Garlic. Foraging & Cooking Food for Free

As ever, we’d love you to share your thoughts, either by leaving a comment here or on our social media pages, where this article will be shared.

You can find the Bridge Cottage Way on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

You might enjoy some of the writing and ideas in other sections of this website, as we look towards leading more sustainable lives by growing our own food and creating dishes in line with seasonal eating, or head to our handy ‘Month by Month’ guides to find out what we have been doing here at Bridge Cottage as the months go by:

 

Many thanks for reading.

With Facebook and Instagram algorithms being fickle friends at times, be sure to get all new posts from The Bridge Cottage Way by signing up for the mailing list here. This will go our four times a year, with the seasons in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. We, of course, will not share your details with third parties, and you have the right to unsubscribe at any time.

Tim & Sue in the Bridge Cottage Way garden

Wild Garlic. Foraging & Cooking Food for Free

Wild Garlic. Foraging & Cooking Food for Free

Wild Garlic. Foraging & Cooking Food for Free

Wild Garlic, Allium ursinum, also known as: ramsons, buckrams, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek or bear’s garlic, is a bulbous perennial flowering plant in the amaryllis family Amaryllidaceae. It is native to Europe and Asia, where it grows in moist woodland. It can be grown in your garden, or foraged for, for free!

The smell of wild garlic takes me back to the day we moved to Bridge Cottage. As we drove along with a car full of boxes, marvelling at the beauty of the Northumberland countryside, a pungent pong wafted through the car window. Wild garlic. It was growing in abundance along the roadside. Imagine our delight when we discovered it growing along the banks of the burn that runs through the garden. Food for free, and delicious at that.

Here in Northumberland, it is the beginning of March when the wild garlic is poking up, ready to pick. It may well be February if you are in warmer climes. The fresh young leaves can be picked and added to a salad. We planted some salad leaves in the greenhouse in the autumn, and are reaping the benefits now.

Not only is it tasty, but wild garlic is also good for you, proven to reduce blood pressure. Wild garlic has all manner of health benefits too.

I need to check the freezer. We made lots of wild garlic pesto last year. There may well be some packs lurking in the back. I’ll pop some recipes below, and add them to the Bridge Cottage Kitchen page.

wild garlic and nettles

wild garlic and nettles

By far the favourite recipe of last year was for wild garlic and blue cheese scones – delicious with a bowl of soup. – you can also add nettles to many of these recipes, but be careful to pick with gloves and take note that nettles will still sting until wilted or cooked. Don’t do what a friend of mine did, and use nettles in pesto without wilting first. She, unfortunately, tasted a spoon of nettle pesto and stung her mouth and throat. It could have been a lot nastier than it was. I’ll write more about nettles in a month or so, when they’re properly up.

Blue Cheese & Wild Garlic Scones

Blue cheese and wild garlic scones

Blue cheese and wild garlic scones

Ingredients

225g plain or spelt flour

3 tsp baking powder

Pinch salt, half tsp English mustard powder

50g cold butter

125g blue cheese (or any strong cheese)

2 tbsp washed & chopped wild garlic (nettle tops and chives work well too)

60ml cold milk

1 beaten egg

Method

Scones are best handled as little as possible. I use a food processor, but mixing by hand is fine

Sift flour, baking powder, salt & mustard. Grate in the butter, cheese, & mix with wild garlic and nettles. Mix in egg & milk with a clawed hand, adjusting the amount of liquid to give a soft, slightly sticky dough. (Scones are better on the wet side rather than dry).

Tip onto a floured worktop and handling as little as possible, knead gently then press down into a flat shape about 3cm thick. Cut into shapes, top with a little cheese or egg & milk from the jug you used.

Bake at 220 deg (200 deg fan) Gas 7 for 12 minutes.

Serve with butter. Delicious with some wild garlic and nettle soup.

 

Pesto

Add a couple of good handfuls of wild garlic to about 200ml of olive oil, a handful of nuts (eg walnuts, cashew or pine nuts), 50g grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, and blitz in a food processor.

Add your pesto to pasta for a simple but tasty lunch or rub onto chicken. Wild garlic and chicken go very well together.

I like to make several batches and freeze them in small bags. There is nothing better in the depths of winter than to go foraging in the freezer and finding little bags of spring wild garlic pesto to use for lunches.

Salads

Wild garlic leaves can be added whole to salads or chopped according to taste. Use instead of spring onions for a mild, oniony taste, but with the added zing of garlic. They make an interesting addition to a cheese sandwich married with a touch of mayonnaise.

Salad dressing can also be made more interesting with finely chopped wild garlic leaves or add to mayonnaise or butter.

Tomatoes

In his iconic foraging guide, Food for Free, written many moons ago, Richard Mabey tells us that wild garlic goes handsomely with tomatoes

Richard tells us to take advantage of their size and lay them criss-cross over sliced beefsteak tomatoes’. I like to chop them finely and add to chopped tinned tomatoes for a quick and tasty tomato sauce that can go with pasta, or as an accompaniment to fish cakes.

Alternatively, make simple tomato salsa, by chopping fresh tomatoes with finely chopped wild garlic, and fresh deseeded chilli, and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

wild garlic and nettle soup

wild garlic and nettle soup

Wild garlic can be used with young nettle tops for a healthy, delicious soup, or for the meat-eaters amongst us, simply add to chicken stock and blitz for a delicious wild garlic soup.

I’m off to pick some wild garlic to use tonight with simple mayonnaise to have with our chips.

Happy foraging, but remember to forage responsibly – leave plenty for others and for wildlife.

Wild Garlic. Foraging & Cooking Food for Free

Wild Garlic. Foraging & Cooking Food for Free

 

 

As ever, we’d love you to share your thoughts, either by leaving a comment here or on our social media pages, where this article will be shared.

You can find the Bridge Cottage Way on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

You might enjoy some of the writing and ideas in other sections of this website, as we look towards leading more sustainable lives by growing our own food and creating dishes in line with seasonal eating, or head to our handy ‘Month by Month’ guides to find out what we have been doing here at Bridge Cottage as the months go by:

 

Many thanks for reading.

With Facebook and Instagram algorithms being fickle friends at times, be sure to get all new posts from The Bridge Cottage Way by signing up for the mailing list here. This will go our four times a year, with the seasons in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. We, of course, will not share your details with third parties, and you have the right to unsubscribe at any time.

Tim & Sue in the Bridge Cottage Way garden

Elderberry Tonic – Autumn Foraging

Elderberry Tonic

Elderberry Tonic

The autumn equinox is a time for gathering and preparing for the winter, and what better way is there than making some super healthy elderberry tonic to ward off winter colds and flu?

 
It’s easy to make and tastes delicious. Drink it neat in shot glasses, or hot with warm water added or cold in fizzy water.
Elderberries are high in vitamin C, and elderberry tonic is a staple in our house. 
More info about the health benefits can be found here, – Health benefits of elderberries – but rather than buy commercial elderberry tonic, why not make your own with our simple recipe?
Elderberries

Elderberries

Elderberry Tonic Recipe:
 
Collect a bag of ripe elderberries, and then once home, wash and pop off the stalks with a fork, into a saucepan.
Add water until just covered.
Add a cinnamon stick, good chunk root ginger, chopped, and some cloves & star anise.
 
Bring to the boil & simmer for 20 mins.
 
Strain through muslin, or a clean tea towel inside a colander. Squeeze all the juice out.
 
Add a good dollop of honey to taste and bottle into clean containers.
 
I freeze some in plastic bottles for the depths of winter and keep a bottle in the fridge door for daily slurps.
 
Cheers!

Cheers! Keep Healthy and Stay Safe 🙂

 

As ever, we’d love you to share your thoughts, either by leaving a comment here or on our social media pages, where this article will be shared.

You can find the Bridge Cottage Way on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

You might enjoy some of the writing and ideas in other sections of this website, as we look towards leading more sustainable lives by growing our own food and creating dishes in line with seasonal eating, or head to our handy ‘Month by Month’ guides to find out what we have been doing here at Bridge Cottage as the months go by:

Many thanks for reading.

With Facebook and Instagram algorithms being fickle friends at times, be sure to get all new posts from The Bridge Cottage Way by signing up for the mailing list here. This will go our four times a year, with the seasons in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. We, of course, will not share your details with third parties, and you have the right to unsubscribe at any time.

Tim & Sue in the Bridge Cottage Way garden

 

Rosebay Willowherb Tea. Late Summer Foraging.

Rosebay Willowherb growing in Northumberland

Rosebay Willowherb growing in Northumberland

Rosebay Willowherb is known as Fireweed in North America, after its tendency to spring up as an early pioneer on burnt land. In second World War Britain, it sprang up on bomb sites in London, and elsewhere, rising like the Phoenix from the ashes. In Clydebank in Scotland, it grew the bombed Singer Sewing machine site and was nicknamed Singerweed. Here in Northumberland it grows rampant along the roadsides and we even have a large patch alongside the burn in the Bridge Cottage garden.

 

Foraging for Rosebay Willowherb

Foraging for Rosebay Willowherb

You may need to go further afield, and if you do, always remember to forage responsibly. Take only as much as you need, leaving plenty behind for wildlife, and do not go where you are not supposed to go.

 

 

I’ve mentioned my youngest son before, a lad full of surprises. Imagine my delight when I got a What’s App message from him, with photos of leaves he’d picked and a link to how to make Ivan Chai, or fermented Rosebay Willowherb tea. I’d heard that the leaves of the Rosebay Willowherb made a great green tea but had not heard of Ivan Chai.

A spot of research later, and I discovered this tea is a traditional drink and domestic medicine in northern and Eastern Europe. In Russia, its fermented leaves are known as Koporye or Ivan tea, while in Alaska, the flowers are a valuable source of nectar for honey and are made into jellies and syrups. I already had some dried leaves but thought this fermentation process sounded interesting yet simple.

Consulting my book about hedgerow herbal remedies* I read that Rosebay Willowherb can be made into a syrup which is excellent for treating childhood diarrhoea or irritable bowel symptoms (see recipe below), and infusions of the leaves have also been used for heavy periods. Modern research into Rosebay Willowherb has focused on its role in treating BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), inhibiting prostate cancer cell growth in animals and by inference, in humans.

To make Rosebay Willowherb tea: 

Either dry the leaves and petals naturally (see post on drying herbs) or make your own fermented Rosebay Willow Herb tea, aka Ivan tea:

Rolling Rosebay Willowherb leaves to make Ivan Tea

Rolling Rosebay Willowherb leaves to make Ivan Tea

Ivan Tea or Fermented Rosebay Willowherb Tea

  1. Pick the leaves from the Rosebay Willowherb plant, near the top.
  2. Leave to go limo overnight
  3. Roll into balls (you can roll a few leaves together)
  4. Put in a sealed container in a warm place for 24 hours. You can add rose petals for flavour
  5. Dry in a cool dry place, or in an oven on the lowest setting til thoroughly dried out. (I like to keep the oven door open slightly to let the moisture out
  6. Store in an airtight container once cool
  7. Drink and enjoy!
Rosebay Willowherb Tea. Ivan Tea

Rosebay Willowherb Tea. Ivan Tea

If you’d like to see a video of how it’s made, I’ll get one made, but in the short term, here’s someone to show you how:
YouTube video: Full process of making Ivan tea

 

picking rosebay willowherb

picking rosebay willowherb

Rosebay Willowherb Syrup*

20 flower heads

500ml water

100g sugar

Juice of a lemon

Bring flower heads and water to the boil and simmer until the colour leaves the blossoms, in about 5-10 minutes. Strain the juice and return to the pot.

Add the sugar and lemon juice and boil for 5 mins, allow to cool then bottle and label.

It will keep in the fridge for a few months.

This is a pleasant remedy for childhood diarrhoea and can be used for any case of intestinal irritation and loose bowels.

Give a tablespoon for adults, and a dessert spoon for children every few hours.

*Taken from Hedgerow Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal

I hope you have found this first post on foraging useful. Watch out for more coming up as we go into autumn, and our hedgerows become abundant with brambles and other fruit.

Please forage responsibly – here is a guide to Foraging Guidelines from the Woodland Trust. 

 

As ever, we’d love you to share your thoughts, either by leaving a comment here or on our social media pages, where this article will be shared.

You can find the Bridge Cottage Way on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

You might enjoy some of the writing and ideas in other sections of this website, as we look towards leading more sustainable lives by growing our own food and creating dishes in line with seasonal eating, or head to our handy ‘Month by Month’ guides to find out what we have been doing here at Bridge Cottage as the months go by:

Many thanks for reading.

With Facebook and Instagram algorithms being fickle friends at times, be sure to get all new posts from The Bridge Cottage Way by signing up for the mailing list here. This will go our four times a year, with the seasons in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. We, of course, will not share your details with third parties, and you have the right to unsubscribe at any time.

Tim & Sue in the Bridge Cottage Way garden