Show your mettle, grasp the nettle

6th April 2010 by

Saturday found a few of us cycling round Tower Hamlets looking for something to eat. Ceri (from the Invisible Food Project in Lambeth) guided us on a Wild Food Cycle to Tower Hamlets Cemetery, Mile End Park and Spitalfields City Farm where the ride culminated with a wild risotto. We sought out 5 wild foods- dandelion buds, goose grass, nettles, chickweed and yarrow.

All this reminded me that it’s sort of springtime and time to start foraging.I spent Sunday out in the sun numbing my fingers gathering the smallest leaves on the tips of the nettle plants. And so early nettle soup was consumed and my one skeptic converted, possibly by the sweet potato and parsnip that rendered the nettle part pretty subtle by comparison. But weeds, and especially young nettles, are surprisingly nutritious so it was definitely worth it even if my thumb’s still tingling. Gloves would’ve been a handy thing,

Chickweed

A very abundant salad that can be picked all year round (especially after high rainfall). It’s high in magnesium, phosphorus, copper, vitamin C, B2, B12, D, A and rutin (what the rutin is rutin).

Dandelion

Leaves, roots, buds and flowers are all edible. The leaves make a great wilted salad. High in iron, calcium and vitamin A. In Russia they used to make rubber from the white latex in the stems and the roots.

Yarrow

A healing herb which is used for circulatory disorders, has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used as a remedy for colds and fevers. Quite a strong taste that I’m not totally convinced about. Its medical properties mean that you don’t want to consume loads of it.

Goose grass

The very young plant is good raw or cooked. Roasted burs make a coffee substitute. Also known as cleavers and sticky willy, even if you don’t know this one you’ve probably found it stuck to your clothes before. As the plant gets older it develops a velcro texture, which cooking gets rid of.

Nettle

Very high in protein, contains calcium, vitamin C and beta-cartene. I’ve read a book called 101 uses for nettles, which starts to clutch at straws by about no.80. But this plant has been used to food, tea, medicine, cloth, rope, dye, to set cheese, as a liquid manure, fly repellent and relief for arthritis to name but a few. The cloth is softer and harder wearing than cotton.

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