The perfect accompaniment for foraging in the woods, these baskets are made for Forage Box by willow-weaving experts, WyldCraft Wyllow.
These are hand-made, artisan products and because of that they are all unique. There is no factory, no importing, no exploitation - just premium quality products hand-crafted with love.
We were very excited when we first tried this and are thrilled to be able to include such a fantastic product in our box this month. Buck and Birch have teamed up with Napiers the Herbalists to create this delicious drink that is PACKED with health-boosting ingredients.
We could waffle on further, but they put it far better than we ever could:
“A concentrated elderberry, bramble and rosehip syrup providing a good source of Vitamin C, enhanced with sustainably harvested herbs and spices. Each 5 ml serving contains 100mg of vitamin C. Vitamin C contributes to the normal function of the immune system. Flavoured with herbs and spices including Japanese knotweed, Inula, Orange, Ginger, Liquorice, Nigella and Cinnamon.”
In the age that we live in, it is a great comfort to know that something so delicious is doing our immune systems such a favour too. Aside from the medicinal properties, its really delicious! You can enjoy it neat as you would any fruit juice, however poured over ice with a little splash of soda water and a sprig of garden mint transforms this into a sophisticated fire-side mocktail to rival any other.
A stalwart of suburban gardens and paint colour charts alike, Magnolia tends to only be found where humans want it. It is rarely found in the wild, but looms over many a pavement right across the nation and offers up a stunning floral display early in the season, when other dramatic trees have yet to get started. Magnolia trees are a prehistoric species, long before flying insects were around, so pollination was the duty of beetles and other crawling species. It’s this dependency on larger bugs that encouraged the glorious, open flower heads to evolve, and exactly what we are looking for as foragers.
Magnolia petals have a distinct ginger flavour, without all the fieriness of the root variety, which lends itself to being used in cake-making, cocktails and other sweet serving suggestions. We’ve preserved these petals in a light syrup, which extends the lifespan without losing any of the delicate flavour. If you can resist wolfing down the whole jar, we recommend trying it floating atop a sparkling cocktail on a sunny day, or baked lightly in a cupcake. However you choose to enjoy it, it will be a prehistoric taste being explored by a modern palate via the means of traditional harvesting methods, and we are pretty chuffed with that as a concept (and phrase!).
P.s. when you are finished with the petals, make sure you save the syrup. Mix it into drinks, freeze it as an ice lolly or bake it into a cake!
Die-hard Forage Box fans may already enjoyed the flowers of mugwort, which we sent out as a tea way back in August, and will recall its aromatic, herbal nature (as well as its effects on your sleep). This time round, it is the leaves we are focusing on as we look to add more to our spice rack. Mugwort itself is well out of season, but we picked what we could back in summer in preparation for these leaner months.
Despite being a prolific grower when the sun is out, we reckon mugwort is best suited to winter cooking - soups, stews, broths, roasts - and will sit comfortably wherever you might use sage, even if it is slightly more delicate in terms of flavour. If you’re feeling adventurous, try it in a Korean broth with udon noodles. If that all sounds a bit alien to you, a simple sage and onion stuffing can be made using the sage/mugwort substitution we mentioned earlier.
You may be wondering whether hogweed is safe to eat. In this instance, we have used Common Hogweed, rather than the rightly-feared Giant Hogweed that sees councils throw up red tape on country footpaths. So it’s a resounding YES - it is edible!
The part of the plant we have used for this product is the dried seeds. On their own, they’ve been said to taste a bit like cardamom, a bit like orange and a bit like soap. Not the highest praise really, but when blended to a powder and mixed with sea salt, as we’ve done here, you get a much more pleasant account of what these abundant seeds can taste like.
Comparable to celery salt, this sits very nicely atop a Bloody Mary cocktail, or mixed into a tomato soup. We like to pair it with boiled eggs (quail eggs are even better) or to rub it on something before it hits the BBQ grill. However you choose to use it, it should remain a kitchen cupboard staple for years to come, and you’ll soon be using it instead of your bog-standard salt in everything!
Arguably the biggest celebrity of the foraging world, Wild Garlic is already a bit of a household name, popping up on restaurant menus across the country. You can probably even buy it fresh from a quality greengrocer when it is season in Spring and early Summer. For this product, we preserved some using the lacto-fermention method, which also happens to add depths of flavours and a complexity not found with the fresh plant (FYI lacto-fermentation is the same process that makes gherkins, kimchi, sauerkraut and other tangy pickles. You will even find it in some beers!), before drying it out to create what must be close to the perfect seasoning. A little bit salty, a little bit tangy, plenty of umami and loads of garlic punch!
Sprinkle this liberally wherever you would salt and pepper. Although it will hold its flavour in cooking and heating, we reckon its far better to add this at the very end of preparing your food to keep all those flavour-profiles right at the forefront of the dish. This is one we are particularly proud of so it gives us great pleasure to be able to introduce fellow ‘gastronauts’ to it!
Some people just don’t get foraging. Blinkered by celebrity survivalists eating questionable things as a stunt, or cliché-riddled perceptions of hippies with flowers in their hair (we love you, hippies - you are our people), the go-to sneer for cynics always seems to about bloody nettles. Nettles. Those perennial so-called weeds that we are warned about from such a young age are always used as a stick to bash foragers with as if it is totally absurd that we eat such a maligned plant. This is where foraging smugness steps in. Not only are nettles free, common, abundant and easily identified, they are also incredibly good for you, versatile and delicious. Often used in place of spinach but offering so much more in terms of complexity of flavour and nutrition, they will happily sit anywhere on the bitter-sweet spectrum and are a great ingredient for cordials, beers, hearty stews and everything in between.
You may be pleased to hear that we haven’t got any plans to send out something that will sting you upon opening your box any time soon, so don’t expect any fresh nettles from us. Besides, nettles are a great beginners plant to begin any foraging adventure with - it would be hard to think of a more commonly recognised plant in the UK - and not imaginative enough to warrant replacing our more interesting fresh ingredients with. So for our first nettle product, we have created Nettle Matcha, which is a great way of preserving its distinct ‘iron’ flavour whilst hanging on to all the nutrional value that nettles are renowned for. It is a fine powder that can be enjoyed as a hot drink by mixing in boiled water, or as a key ingredient in a sweet or savoury dish.
Let’s get one thing clear before we suggest better ways to serve this amazing product: if you want the maximum health benefits, it isn’t going to taste that great. It’s fine, but enjoying it mixed into hot water alone is done purely for the nutrient injection, rather than the taste sensation. Try it instead incorporated into an oily sauce, rolled into pasta dough or iced on top of a cake (bit of icing sugar, bit of lemon/apple juice, bit of nettle matcha). It’s very versatile so let your imagination do the work! Don’t worry - however you decide to prepare it, the notorious ‘stinging’ characteristic of the plant is removed through the drying and powdering process.
If you decide to pick nettles for yourself (you definitely should), avoid dog-walking hotspots and any questionable waste ground - stinging nettles love freshly disturbed soil but have a tendency to absorb pollutants from the earth they grow in. It sounds obvious to say that wild food picked from a lush woodland edge rather than a building site is better for you, but it’s certainly worth a gentle reminder every now and again.