Tag Archives: Monica Wilde

Green Sweet Cicely Seed Sweets

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How to make sweet cicely seed brittle, a form of boiled sweet, and mukhwas, a foraged wild take on Indian sugar coated fennel seeds.

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Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) is found growing wild in the parts of the British Isles that have a cold enough winter for the seed to set. This is mainly north Wales and the Midlands and north, being abundant in Scotland. It is easily distinguished from other umbillifers as it has a distinctive aniseed smell, has velvety soft leaves that are marked on the base fronds with faded, whitish patches that, at a casual glance, look like a bird shat on it. It has very juicy stems that, containing anethole which is sweeter than sugar, can be boiled with rhubarb instead of sugar. It makes delicious crumbles, ice cream and an excellent rhubarb, sweet cicely and ginger jam. Alternatively infuse it in vodka to make a wild sambuca!

The seeds, eaten young and raw, are reminiscent of the aniseeds found in the centre of traditional gobstoppers (in the US, jawbreakers). So it was only a matter of time before I experimented with sweet cicely candy!

Ingredients

2 cups of young green sweet cicely seeds
2 cups of granulated sugar
1 cup of water
1 dessertspoon of glucose syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Directions

Pick the young sweet cicely seeds when still tender. If you leave it too late in the year they become fibrous. Late May is a good time to harvest in Scotland.

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Put the water and sugar into a saucepan over a gentle heat, stirring, to slowly dissolve the sugar. Then bring to the boil. Once it has reached a slow boil, add the sweet cicely seeds. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you can put a drop of the sugar solution onto a cold plate and it keeps its spherical shape without collapsing flat onto the plate.

Now, using a pot holder to hold the pan, hold the pan lid on leaving a small gap, tilt and strain the excess sugar solution off into a silicone flan case leaving the seeds trapped in the pan. (Carefully: Hot sugar burns!) Allow it to spread out thinly in the case by tilting it from side to side while still warm. Leave to cool before scoring and breaking into pieces.

sweet 4Return the pan to the heat and ensure any remaining sugar solution is mixed evenly through the seeds and fully absorbed. Empty onto a silicone sheet and separate with a fork to make a version of mukhwas – a take on Indian sugar-coated fennel seed mouth fresheners.

sweet 5Store both, when cool, in airtight containers.

Fermented Wild Garlic

The bright green shoots of wild garlic are one of the most heart-lifting aspects of an early Spring. I eat it fresh, in salads, in cooked dishes, as pesto, or soup. By the summer, it is gone again. I love having wild garlic later in the year but I can’t dry it like most other plants, as it loses it flavour and those ethereal sulphur tones! Freezing it in bags just leaves a defrosted slightly slimy mess. So I have a couple of options: making a wild garlic pesto or fermenting the wild garlic.
Fermenting wild garlic

Fermented Wild Garlic

There are different methods.Some people like to add salt to their vegetables, crush them and allow their own juices to do all the fermenting. I am often short for time, or tired at the end of a day’s foraging and just want to put my feet up when I still have baskets of foraged goodies to clean or stash. So I am drawn to methods that are quick, simple and easy to do, without compromising on taste! For wild garlic, I use the brine method.

To do this I make a 2% brine. Basically that is 20g of salt to 1 litre of filtered water.

I chop and prepare the garlic, adding a lot of flower buds, white stem, and only a little of the darker green leaf. The I pack it tightly into a clean preserving jar and pour the brine over until it covers the contents. Then I put a glass over the mouth to weight down the green stuff, to make sure everything is below the surface of the brine.

I then leave it in a cool place and wait for the bubbles! After a day or two you will realise that there is a strong smell of sulphur being emitted from your jar. Don’t worry. This is part of the transformation, just apologise to visitors to your home!

Fermenting wild garlic

These are ready to eat in about 2 weeks.

Sometimes, to get a stronger flavoured ferment, I will just soak in the brine for 24 hours. Then I’ll drain it and press it under it’s own juices and let it ferment in its own juices which have been released by the salty brine.

Occasionally I’ll add garlic… or chillies. There are no rules!

If you’re interested in fermenting, consider investing in Sandor Katz’s book ‘The Art of Fermentation’. If you have this, you’ll never need another book.

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Meadow Woundwort in the Field!

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Posted on by Monica Wilde

Recently I got bitten yet again. Not by horseflies this time, but some mosquitoes. Sadly I reacted in just the same way. About 27 years ago, I was bitten by a large centipede while living in the West Indies – the joke shop kind, huge and shiny – and had an awful infection with my entire arm swelling up, resulting in minor surgery to drain it. Ever since then some (previously tolerated) insects can give me the most awful bites. These mosquitoes, that waylaid me during an evening foraging walk, weren’t even very big. However by the next morning my calf (2 bites) was massively swollen and I also had a huge lump on my forearm that looked like a second elbow! And, as with horseflies bites, I felt fluey, weak and the pain was intense.

My normal treatment is a blend of nettle, chickweed and wood betony tinctures taken internally with chickweed tincture held against the bites with a gauze pad. But this time, there was none in the house. Chickweed I could pick down by the old shed where it likes to grow – it is a cooling, soothing herb used where there is heat and redness in the body (eczema, nappy rash, etc.). Nettles I could also pick – they trigger the body to produce antihistamine so are great for allergic reactions, hay fever and eczema outbreaks. But wood betony (Stachys officinalis) – for the pain – I had no idea.

A friend of mine thought he’d seen viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare) growing near a local stream and, as this is used to treat poisonous bites, I thought I’d go and look for some. However, there was none there. Walking back though I spied some marsh woundwort growing among the swamp grass.


Marsh woundwort is Stachy palustris and so related to wood betony (Stachy officinalis). By this time my leg was so painful it was a struggle to walk, so I collected about 8 of the plants and set off home where I cut the top two thirds into a saucepan, covered them with water, brought it all to the boil and simmered it for five minutes.

Marsh woundwort has quite a strong unpleasant smell so I was surprised how tasty the tea was. Very similar to the taste of nettle – mind you, its relative hedge woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) is sometimes called hedge nettle. I put a touch of honey in and drank a mugful. I also soaked some gauze pads in cold woundwort tea and wrapped them into place with a gauze bandage. Within 15 minutes of drinking the first mug, the pain started to abate and the swelling lessened. The effect lasts for about 5 hours between mugs.

So I can truly recommend marsh woundwort tea for managing pain and allergic reactions with inflammation.

In medieval times, it was considered one of the most valuable herbs. Used directly on wounds as a poultice to heal them, as an ointment for grout and joint pain, and also used internally for cramp and vertigo as well as internal bleeding (haemorrhages, dysentery, etc.). Modern herbalists use it for its antispasmodic properties to treat painful cramps such as menstrual cramps. Like betony, it probably has a sedative effect on the central nervous system and is useful for managing pain. Likely alkaloids are betonicine, stachydrine and trigonelline.

There is a lot of research on stachydrine. It has cardio protective benefits but has also been found to prevent the deterioration of endothelial cells (the cells that line our blood vessels and lymph system) caused by high-blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Trigonelline has been identified as a potential anti diabetic treatment (Rios et al., 2015). Trigonelline also protects cells from H2O2 damage and could be useful for treatment of oxidative stress mediated cardiovascular diseases in future (Ilavenil et al., 2015).

I live in a field in West Lothian. 4 wild acres where I am planting and encouraging medicinal and foraging species. I have been fascinated by herbs and plants since childhood. My original interest was sparked by a wild childhood in Kenya, where I was introduced to herbal medicine by a local Kikuyu herbalist at the age of six. We were outdoors most of the time and I remember with joy the freedom of those early years. I love foraging for wild food as well as wild medicine and would happily never visit a supermarket again.

Monica Wilde photo

For the latest on events and courses please visit Monica on www.monicawilde.com

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Wild Food Winter Salads

Posted on by Monica Wilde

It’s been so mild this November that there are still lots of wild salad plants around. This salad bowl is made up of chickweed, bitter cress and wild brassica flowers with a rapeseed oil and soy sauce dressing.

 

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I live in a field in West Lothian. 4 wild acres where I am planting and encouraging medicinal and foraging species. I have been fascinated by herbs and plants since childhood. My original interest was sparked by a wild childhood in Kenya, where I was introduced to herbal medicine by a local Kikuyu herbalist at the age of six. We were outdoors most of the time and I remember with joy the freedom of those early years. I love foraging for wild food as well as wild medicine and would happily never visit a supermarket again.

Monica Wilde photo

For the latest on events and courses please visit Monica on www.monicawilde.com

Also on twitter.com/monicawilde
facebook.com/monicawilde
linkedin.com

GARLIC DRESSING

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Wild Garlic Salad Dressing

Posted on April 25, 2014 by Monica Wilde

This is a lovely dressing that goes well with a mixed leaf salad such as dandelion leaves, chickweed, sorrel and wild garlic leaf.

1 tablespoon finely chopped wild garlic stalks, buds and flowers.
1/4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white sugar

The first step is not entirely necessary but does make for a more ‘garlicky’ flavour.
1. Warm the oil and pour over the wild garlic in a small glass mixing bowl. Leave to infuse for an hour (or two or three!).
2. Start whisking the oil with chopped wild garlic, salt & sugar and drizzle in the lemon juice, whisking all the time.
3. It should elmusify so that the oil and lemon juice do not separate.
4. Sprinkle the dressing over your salad. Enjoy!