June sees the longest day and so the summer celebrations can begin, with frequent glasses of fizz and al fresco dining on the agenda. We showcase early summer's finest offerings, including our first seasonal salad bag, a DIY homebrew kit and a coastal vegetable that you may never have even noticed.
We can moan about the cold first half of the year as much as we like - the fact of the matter is that this has prolonged the fresh, green growth of Spring into the warmer months and this gives us the opportunity to keep gathering salad leaves from our hedgerows, when in previous years this would not have been possible. It is our great pleasure to bring you this mixed salad bag that showcases the diversity of salad leaves available to us on our doorstep. Enjoy it for lunch with a simple dressing made from a good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a twist of black pepper.
In your hedgerow salad, you can expect to find a mixture of: lime leaves, chickweed, sheep sorrel, common vetch, dandelion, ribwort plantain, and fat hen. This is a hyper-seasonal mix, so it can vary depending on the weather and time of year.
Chances are that you will be familiar with the taste of elderflower, probably through that sickly-sweet cordial that you can buy in supermarkets. That's pretty standard fayre, as far as we are concerned, so we've turned our attention to adding a slightly boozier dimension to give you that real taste of summer with the extra excitement of making it yourself! Forage Box is, after all, trying to get people to reconnect with nature and we reckon this is a perfect introduction to a foraged homebrew. This is even more exciting because we are relying on the wild yeast present on the flowers, so each batch will be unique to you.
In our Elderflower Sparkling Wine Kit (we would have loved to have used the far more romantic name of 'Elderflower Ch*mpagne' but using that C-word comes with all sorts of restrictions and policing) you get elderflowers, sugar and lemon... and that's it! All you need to do is provide a bit of water and find a suitable bottle. We recommend a 1 litre plastic bottle but please reuse what you have lying around - PLEASE DO NOT BUY A SINGLE-USE BOTTLE JUST FOR THIS! If you can't find a plastic bottle, you can use a milk bottle, glass jar, old sauce bottle or anything else around the 1 litre mark.
Making your sparkling wine is easy - just follow the recipe below or visit our Recipes page
2 elderflowers (provided)
100g brewing sugar (provided)
Juice and rind of half a lemon (provided)
1 litre of room temperature water
In a large bowl, mix the all the ingredients together and cover. Leave somewhere warm for 24 hours.
Strain off flowers and lemon and pour into a clean, ideally sterilised, 1 litre bottle/jar. Leave an inch of air or so at the top of the container.
Store at room temperature for around a week to ferment out. Wild yeast is unpredictable so this may take slightly longer.
It is VERY IMPORTANT that the bottle is 'burped' daily to allow the build-up of pressurised gas to be released. This means undoing the bottle lid a little to allow the gas to escape, but not allowing the liquid to fizz out (you may need to reseal the bottle lid and wait a few minutes before going again). Each time you do this, keep repeating the until the gas is no longer hissing out. FAILURE TO DO THIS STAGE WILL LIKELY RESULT IN EXPLODING BOTTLES! The technique for this is much like when someone shakes your bottle of fizzy pop and you have to gently and patiently let the pressurised gas escape.
Continue to burp and monitor your bottle of sparkling wine until it has calmed down enough to remove the lid without frothing over.
Once at this gently sparkling stage, put the lid back on the bottle and chill it in the fridge.
Serve in a tall glass, perhaps with a slice of lemon and ice.
Here we go again! Nettles are certainly one of our favourite ingredients to work with and it is no wonder when only a few months ago we were treating you to Nettle Matcha and now something at the complete opposite end of the spectrum with this sweet, aromatic cordial. We've waxed lyrical about the benefits of getting nettles into our diets, and it requires no further preaching on our part, suffice to say they are really, really good for you and absolutely delicious!
This nettle cordial has been described as tasting a bit like apple, a bit like peach, a bit herby, a bit tangy... whatever you end up comparing it to, you won't have tasted anything like it before. Try it as you would any cordial, whether you like it with still or sparkling water, for a crisp summer's day drink. Alternatively, stir up a simple wild cocktail with one part nettle cordial and one part tequila poured over lots of ice - this combination is simply superb.
Ash trees are pretty common in the UK, often taking up residence in newer woodlands just after birch trees have taken over a spot. Some of us will even be familiar with the seed pods - A.K.A the 'keys' - in their end-of-season form when they are dry and brown. These are blown from the tree and are carried on the wind, where they fly with a hypnotic spiraling trajectory to their new home.
These tangy pickles are actually from the very earliest stage of their growth when they are green and pleasantly crunchy. Once picked, the ash keys have been stored in a bespoke pickling liquor and matured for a year to create these incredibly more-ish little pickles. Try them wherever you would a cornichon or gherkin - alongside a cold platter works wonders but they are just as at home incorporated into a tartare sauce!
Another underappreciated vegetable - aren't they all? - that is found on grassy coastlines up and down the country. Until it produces flowers, Sea Aster looks fairly unremarkable. However, at this time of year when its impressive floral display is nowhere to be seen, its succulent leaves are juicy and perfectly crisp with a slightly rich, nutty, tangy, salty, bitter flavour... it's a complex beast and deserves your full attention in the kitchen.
Try nibbling on it raw to enjoy it in its purest form, maybe before stirring it through a lettuce-free salad (lettuce can get in the way sometimes) - perhaps in a potato or egg salad eaten in the sun alongside a plate of barbecue fodder. Alternatively, lightly steam, sauté or fry it before seasoning with a little black pepper and devouring it as a side dish with fish, roasted aubergine or other mezze dishes.