Having previously lived in a remote area of Sweden, It was a long way to the supermarket so I would often look into the garden and beyond to see what we could grow or see what was already growing. I was surprised by some of the herbs that I found that were not only abundant but also extremely nutritious and tasty. I also grew my own potatoes and nearly started a forest fire in the process but anyway we won’t go into that right now.
Power up your meals with these herbs that would provide you with some healthy nutrition and immune boosting powers for the cost of, well, pretty much sweet nothing.
I don’t know any back garden that doesn’t have a few stinging nettles in them, and the young leaves are best plucked and eaten in the Spring time. They provide a wide variety of nutrients, including vitamins A, C and K and several B vitamins, minerals such as Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Sodium and some healthy fats to include linoleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and oleic acid. Its also believed that eating stinging nettles in spring can purify the blood.
Wear protective gloves to gather the rich green Spring leaves, and gather in a bag or basket and then take them home to wash. The leaves make a delicious soup which I believe tastes quite similar to spinach, and I know what you’re thinking, no the leaves don’t sting at all when cooked. The Spring leaves also freeze very well so you can have them all year round.
Recipe to try: Stinging Nettle Soup
Chances are there will be a few dandelions in your garden. Most people think of dandelion as a weed, but the plant has long been used in herbal medicine, the roots are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal and the Dandelion leaves are a natural antioxidant, and a digestive aid. The entire dandelion plant from root to flower is edible with a slightly bitter, chicory-like taste. The leaves are high in fibre and high in vitamin A. If you find the leaves too bitter on their own why not try adding them to your smoothie with a mixture of other fruits and veg to balance out the taste, or you could also add them to a stir-fry as they are not so bitter when cooked.
Recipe to try: Marinated Chickpeas with Quinoa and Dandelion Greens
These look very similar to weeds, kinda like a large dock leaf, and they spread like wildfire so there will be a lot in one area. When you start to pull them up thinking that they are weeds, thats usually when they giveaway their scent, the smell of the root is very pungent. You would more likely find this root in a large garden with wild areas of fauna or in hedgerows and ditches. We mostly use Horseradish to make a sauce and its so tasty with roast vegetables. Horseradish root is packed with nutrients and phytochemicals which can boost the strength of the immune system and stimulate the activity and production of white blood cells, the body’s main line of defense. The vitamin C content is also impressive which can boost the strength of the immune system.
Once picked just wash and peel it, and then it can be grated and mixed with cream and other ingredients to make a eye watering sauce which goes very well with roast beef or roast vegetables.
Recipe to try: Horseradish Sauce.
4. Wild Fennel.
Wild Fennel is a common plant usually found in coastal areas in the UK, mostly in hedgerows and fields. Its appearance is very delicate and nothing like the cultivated Fennel that you find in supermarkets. You wouldn’t eat the bulb of the wild variety, its the delicate fronds and stems that are the edible part. They taste delicious chopped and garnished on potatoes and on soups especially fish soup. Fennel is usually available from autumn through to early spring. Wild Fennel has many medicinal properties such as enhancing the eye sight and is also great for digestion.
Recipe to try: Wild Fennel Ice-Cream
5. Evening Primrose.
This pretty yellow flowering plant is entirely edible. The young roots can be peeled and boiled and taste great served with butter as you would serve boiled potatoes. The early leaves are cooked and eaten as greens and added to salads. The flowers of Evening Primrose make a pretty edible garnish and have a mild lemon-pepper taste.
Evening primrose contains protein, carbohydrates, beta carotene, calcium, potassium, and vitamin B3. This plant also contains high levels of gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) which is important in supporting the immune system and regulating hormones, making it very affective at treating PMS.
Tips to try: How to balance hormones using Evening Primrose Oil.
So next time you are in your garden or the park or on your country walk, take the time to look around and you never know you might find some tasty treats.
Here are some of my favourite UK foraging sites that might spark your interest a little further and provide you with some useful insights into the world of foraging for general eating, enjoying and pleasure to medicinal healing.