A Guide To Winter Foraging

Foraging is an excellent way to gather fresh and unusual ingredients you’re your meals, without spending the earth. Many excellent fruits, fungi and plants are ready to harvest across the winter months so why not don your waterproofs and wellies, and get out into the woods for some truly organic foods?

Top Wild Foods


Funghi


Oyster Mushrooms

Mushroom growth flourishes in damp, woody land such as forests, so get down in the undergrowth to harvest these tasty vegetables. Oyster mushrooms are a key species that sprouts out from the undergrowth, and are often found on logs or tree stumps. What’s more, they also spring up in different areas across the forests as opposed to growing in the same patch all year round. Like the common button mushroom, oyster mushrooms are tasty when stir-fried with a chinese sauce, boiled in a stew, or blended into a soup.

Blewits Mushrooms

Another prominent wild species are the Blewits mushrooms. Also known as the bluey or the blue button, these mushrooms wear a purple tinge, and work great with meat dishes such as beef or rabbit. These colourful, intensely flavoured mushrooms are common on grasslands such as parks, and are typically ready to harvest between October and January.

Leafy Greens

Nettles

The word ‘nettles’ on a food post probably made you cringe a little, but you can actually cook these leaves like spinach, or blend them into a yummy soup! If you delve beneath the crunchy leaves on the surface of the nettle patches, you’ll find young, luscious leaves that make a great ingredient. When picking these self-defensive plants, always wear gloves, and do the same whilst preparing them for cooking. That, or have a dock leaf on hand!

Dandelions

Another weed, yes, but much like nettles these pesky little plants can actually be a wonderful addition to a main meal. The leaves can be bitter on the taste buds, but when mixed into a leafy salad with some croutons and dressing they can help to create a harmonious flavour balance. You can also use dried and ground dandelion roots to make dandelion coffee, a drink that is both warming and caffeine-free.

Ground Elder

Much like dandelions, ground elder is a predominant garden weed that proves nightmarish to kill off – even for the experienced gardener. What many green-fingered beings don’t realise though, is that ground elder leaves are edible vegetables that have been used by everyone from the Romans right through to those living in the Middle Ages. Fresh, new born leaves are a great addition to any winter salad, whilst the older, more mature leaves are a satisfying alternative to cabbage.


Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard is a small, delicate plant with leaves that look like stinging nettles and d quaint groups of small white flowers atop the stems. Found in damp, shady hedgerows, the leaves can be crushed to deliver a mild garlic flavour and smell. Chefs often use the leaf as a replacement for garlic cloves, to add a fragrant kick to salads, stir-fries and soups.

Fruits

Apples

Although many think of apples as a spring and summer fruit, some apple species will cling to the trees right through until the New Year. Winter apples can range in flavour, from highly tart cooking style apples, to the smaller sweeter varieties. Cancel out the tartness of the large apples by slicing them up as a base for a quality pork joint that, when cooked, will also form a sweet base to a homemade, apple sauce accompaniment.

Tips for Foraging

Do your research

Before you head out foraging for the firs time, make sure that you do plenty of research into the species that you should be looking out for, and the species that you should be avoiding. Whilst most plants are harmless, there are some varieties that can look like a safe species but are actually be fatal to your health. Fungi are a key plant type to be weary of, because some mushrooms can be extremely poisonous and detrimental to your wellbeing.

You may find it helpful to print out pictures of the different species, along with a short blurb about their characteristics. That way you can take the images with you as you forage, to compare the appearance of the plants you’re about to pick to your lists of safe and dangerous plants.

If you aren’t sure, don’t pick it

If you come across a plant that looks safe in comparison to your researched images but looks harmful due to an odd colouring or shape, don’t pick it. Even if it matches with the criteria that you have researched, the plant may have picked up a wild infection or disease, which could in turn be harmful to yourself. The common consensus amongst experienced foragers is that if you have an ounce of doubt in your mind, leave it in the ground. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Make sure that your chosen foraging location isn’t protected

It goes without saying that National Trust parks and similar locations are protected by bylaws that prohibit foraging. Wherever you choose to forage, ensure that it is a public location that isn’t owned by a landlord or official body, or regulated under local legislation. That said, don’t be afraid to ask the landowner or authority for permission to forage on their grounds. Some landlords may be happy for you to take home a sample of foraged goods, whilst other may allow you to take as much as you want or need.

Look out for local foraging events

Many local cookery schools and sustainable food outlets across the UK host foraging days, where you can journey out with a group of like-minded foragers and experienced professionals. Under the guidance of knowledge leaders, you can be sure that all you pick is safe to eat, making these days ideal for foraging beginners.

Foraging is a wonderful way to save money on your groceries, and to enjoy sampling some unique and unconventional ingredients. Why not host a foraged dinner party, where your meals consist of foraged foods and odd ingredients? Whatever you choose to do with your hand-picked goodies, we hope that it encourages you to head out into the great British open as opposed to globally-sourced supermarket.

 

Featured images:

This guest post was written by Alex, who is a writer with http://www.britishandirishwalks.com/walking-holidays/england/. She is a keen foodie and enjoys trying new meals with unusual foraged ingredients.

 

 

Christmas Traditions In Europe

Do you know which country’s children believe that Santa Claus lives in Spain? Or where it is considered traditional to head to the sauna on Christmas Day, after first indulging in a roll around in the snow? If the answer is no, it’s time to brush up on your knowledge of Christmas traditions around the world.

Expedia has published a special Christmas infographic, unveiling the different customs and traditions in countries around Europe. You will get to see inside a typical living room in each country, discover the festive foods and decorations, and find out about the rituals that make each country’s Christmas unique. There are also audio recordings that will teach you how to say ‘Merry Christmas’ in each language.

Once you have explored these quirky and exciting traditions, you will have the chance to send a postcard from your favourite destination, sharing it with friends and family online or keeping it as a souvenir of your ‘Merry Questmas’ with Santa.

Click on the map to start your quest now!

Christmas tradition infographic

Words by Matt L.

Take a monster to school!

There’s something about monsters that kids just seem to love. From the Sesame Street’s Grover to the always flexible claymation wonders Gumby and Pokey, to the loveable stars of Pixar’s Monsters Inc. and Monsters University, if it can’t be easily classified into the existing animal taxonomy, kids go absolutely wild for it. So, it’s no wonder that monsters regularly show up on t-shirts, shoes, and most any other kind of clothing or accessory that children love to wear. Well, if your child is wild for weird and wacky, surprise him with this fun DIY monster backpack! Just take his current boring backpack and a few odds and ends from your nearby fabric store, and with a little bit of effort you can create a book bag that your kid will be excited to bring to school. Just be careful, you wouldn’t want your child’s backpack monster to eat anyone’s homework!

How to make a monster backpack

This infographic courtesy of a guest blog from yourfleece.com

Important Physical and Cognitive Milestones for Babies

As you wait for your baby to be born it can be a bit overwhelming. Between getting advice from your mother to hearing from your friends that already have kids, it can be tough to focus on all of the unforgettable experiences that you and your family will have now that a baby is coming. You have a lot to look forward to, including your baby’s first words, first steps and your first vacation away as a family. Don’t forget though that your baby is constantly developing both cognitive and physical tools every day. For example, from the time your baby is born until three months he or she will begin to learn the difference between tastes of foods, pitch and volume and colors. By exploring your home, your child will get the key information needed to get more accustomed to the world. Learn more about these important milestones in your baby’s life by reading the following infographic.

Baby cognitive development

 

David Cormier is a designer for Cord Advantage, who are leading the way in affordable cord blood banking. Thank you for guest blogging with us and sharing your knowledge!

4 Delicious & Delightful Superfood Berries

superfood berry infographic

Deliciously nutritious Berries are considered by some health food pundits to be a perfect food as they are packed fill of important nutrients. Listed in the accompanying infographic and in the article below are 4 to taste and try.

Acai Berry
Acai berries contain a number of substances that could be very beneficial to your health. This hard-to-pronouce-correctly berry has been known to have a detoxifying effect, which is a must have in this day and age with no end of attractive looking junk food.
The antioxidants found in this berry are even higher than blueberries (no offense to our blueberry buddy), and it has the same qualities as red grapes (without the hang-over wheew). Acai berries also contain healthy fatty acids such as Omega 3, which helps lower high cholesterol so it could be very healthy for your heart. Another great thing about this berry is that it could help to increase your energy (without the coffee breath) as well as helping you to get a more restful nights sleep.
Blueberry
The berry that lives up to it’s name. Blueberries have been know to be loaded with antioxidants, which are thought to help boost your immune system. They are also antibacterial which could be a good aid in warding off those pesky winter colds, which should mean less trips to the shop for that extra box of tissue.
Surprisingly enough this berry has a good amount of fiber in it, something that always plays a vital role in the digestive system. These small little chaps are also a good source of vitamin K which helps you to have healthy bones as well being great for helping your blood to clot normally.
Cranberry
This tart little bright red berry not only gives your tongue a shock, but has bacterial barriers that helps in blocking bacteria that could stick onto urinary tract lining. It can also protect you from from bladder and kidney problems as well, which is a relief in more ways than one.
Consuming cranberries might even lessen your trips to the dentists office as they help protect your gums and teeth from disease and decay. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t consider that good news, cranberry toothpaste anyone?
Goji berry
This delicious little reddish orange berry is chock full with over 20 minerals, some of which are though to help aid in weight loss, which is always a plus in the winter months when we tend to put on a few extra pounds to “stay warmer”.
This goji may also help strengthen your bones and teeth and is loaded with B’s, namely vitamins B1, B2, and B6. So to consume Vitamin B or not to be is the question. B vitamins help your metabolism to keep running strong and some believe this tiny berry could make a big difference to the waist line.
As well as being good for the inside this berry has benefits for the outside as well, helping to stimulate your collagen production while retaining moisture in your skin. It has also been thought to prevent and help cure certain skin diseases. So with inside and outside benefits you can definitely say that beauty isn’t just skin deep in this mini fruit.

Thank you for this guest blog Infographic from our friends at RawFoodOnline.co.uk

rawfoodlogo

A Puppet Rap about Making Jam and Scones

This week we were interested in hiring a puppet to perform a food rap for us.

Lyrics are posted below so that you can sing along should you wish to do so.

SING ALONG:

I like my scones like I like my bed
Freshly made and warm like bread
Spread with clotted cream churned in Devon
With homemade jam its cream tea heaven
Now I’m gonna teach you kids about the jam
So you can post the YouTube clip to your Nan
No I don’t mean Paul Weller or even the Verve
I’m talkin’ ’bout the ORIGINAL fruit conserve
First your gonna get deep down on your knobbly knees
And pick the very best local strawberries
Add 3 pounds of Tate and Lyle
‘Cos we all need a little sugar once in a while
Stick it in the pan on a hot stove
And you’ll have the best jam in all of Hove
For recipes that make you feel like woohooo!
Visit the website, Cookery Doodle Doo