When I moved into my home near woods last July, it was exciting to discover the many plants growing around the garden. At that time the elderflower tree was in bloom and there were lots of blackberry brambles all around the garden. This spring, lots of bee-friendly wildflowers have popped up, and I’ve been foraging nettle, dandelion and wild strawberry.
I’ve always wanted to go on a guided foraging tour, but my itch has been scratched by having my own foragers paradise on my doorstep! I thought I’d do a little overview of which wild plants I’ve picked to consume, and why they are so beneficial. These are plants (especially nettle and dandelions) that grow everywhere, and are really easy to find. If you live near some woods or parks, you could try and spot them yourselves; I’d avoid picking anything by roads, due to the constant exposure to exhaust fumes. I’ve also been enjoying the app “Picture This” which allows you to take photos of plants to find out what they are…it’s been especially useful to pick out the weeds in my vegetable patch! The app also tells you if your plants have diseases or are damaged in some way with tips to rectify the problem, eg chilli spray to deter caterpillars.
Nettle leaf has been traditionally made into tea or soup. It’s a great remedy for pollen allergies as nettle reduces histamine and dampens inflammation related to hay fever symptoms. You’ll find it in many natural allergy relief supplements. Nettle is also a nutritious food, used by many historical communities. It’s important to pick them with rubber gloves, and pour boiling water on them to deactivate the stings. While you can use them as you would spinach, I’ve been making nettle tea. Best picked in early spring, and there are some situations to not pick them, including apparently when they flower (so looks like mine are probably past their “best before” date.
Dandelion leaves have been shown to have anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties. They are a delicious bitter green, that have any of the same benefits as other dark leafy greens, and are great for adding variety to your diet. I really like them sautéed in butter and garlic! You’ll find them growing in May/June.
Wild berries tend to be higher in polyphenols and antioxidants than their modern bred counterparts which are larger, more watery and sweeter. I’m picking my berries as they ripen, and freezing them. Eventually I’ll make a honey-sweetened jam by mixing them with organic strawberries. They tend to fruit between May-October.
Elderflower is classically used to make cordial, syrup or wine. I love the gentle floral taste.
Elderflower trees tend to bloom in late May-mid June
These are the wild plants currently available in my garden. I’m planning to cultivate some more, for example wild garlic, wood sorrel, and bilberries, and ideally a “medicinal plant” garden for basic home remedies, so watch this space :).