Wild Strawberry Rambles

Today is the first day of summer and to my delight, the weather which has been positively wintry the last few weeks has fled and the sun is back. Although the weather was unseasonably cold and wet, the country lanes and fields are awash with colour. Wildflowers such as delicately scented Lady’s Smock, bright golden buttercups, tall ox- eye daisies, pretty pinks, cream dog roses, purple vetch, yellow No Blame, midnight blue Bugle, wild Spotted Orchids dressed in frocks of lilacs and purples…Bees buzz happily amongst the flowers collecting nectar to make honey, birds sing and my dog dashes joyfully up and down the lanes on our daily walks.

I have been doing a lot of foraging in the last two months, researching all the while for information on wild flowers and plants and have been coming home with bunches of Horsetail for making into hair tonic, Wild Garlic leaves for cooking, young Dandelion leaves for salads and stuffing, Dandelion flowers for honey, young nettle tops for soup, Silverweed leaves and Wild Apple Mint for the bath, Red Clover for skin lotions, creams and as a blood cleansing tea, Ribwort Plantain to make into an tea and in the last few days, the delicate Wild Strawberries are coming into season.

I had hoped to make Elderflower wine this year and now is the time for collecting the blossoms, however the stormy conditions of late have burnt a lot of the blossoms and I am hesitant to take whats left in case it affects the production of berries in autumn, which are essential for making my tonic wine. I am waiting to see if they recover and hope to try making a small quantity of wine to try out different recipes.

All the storms have thrown down hundreds of pine cones of all sizes in the woods so I have been out collecting bags of them, bringing them home and drying them out for kindling. My foraging has become such a daily part of my life now that I almost never leave the house without a bag or two for collecting as you never know what you will find! Its a very rewarding and exciting journey of learning what is and isn’t edible, the traditional and modern uses of a plant, its folklore and mythology and then finding new ways of using these plants in my life to enhance the wellbeing of my family and friends and myself.

The majority of my foraging is down down a few select country lanes, more footpaths then anything and I dread to think of the profound loss, if these lanes were ever cemented over or destroyed. These treasure troves of hundreds of wild plants and flowers are irreplaceable, their contribution to biodiversity and a healthy Eco-system crucial. More and more species of wild plants and animals are becoming extinct every day and it is in places like these quiet country lanes, that the need to save our environment, to save our planet becomes crystal clear. So next time you are out for a walk, don’t just admire the beauty around you but think ‘What Can I Do to Protect This??

 

Ginger Ale

A friend of mine recently gave a recipe for making my own Ginger Ale so I tried it out a few weeks ago ad it was quite nice, very light and refreshing. I definitely intend making more for over the summer months.

 

 

Ingredients

1 sachet of dried Yeast

3 Lemons

1 large piece of raw Ginger

1 bag of brown Sugar

1 Jar of cheap honey

6 Sterilized bottles of 1 litre capacity [Large water bottles would be best]

1)Place 1 teaspoon of dried yeast in the end of each bottle.

2)Pour half a lemon’s worth of juice into the end of each bottle. Three lemons is enough for six bottles.

3)Pour a large generous tablespoon of honey into the end of each bottle to add sweetness to the final taste

4)Add a 100grams of sugar to each bottle

5)Peel and grate your ginger and then precook in a little water in a saucepan for a few minutes until it turns brown. Divide into 6 equal quantities and add to the bottles

6)Pour in enough filtered water into each bottle until they are 2/3 full and then shake well. Leave in a warm place for 48hrs

7)Filter each bottle using muslin over in a sieve and store in a dark cold place. Before serving, leave in the fridge for a few hours. Use up your batch of Ginger ale within two weeks as the yeast feeds on the sugar, the ale becomes bitter with time.

It is very important to leave some room for the mix to breathe as it will naturally expend, as I found out to my dismay, when one of my bottles exploded! I had used wine bottles rather then plastic water containers and was picking up shards of glass for ages after as the force of the explosion had sent glass and ale everywhere! Thankfully no one was hurt. I had also used white sugar instead of brown which turned the ale a pale creamy colour suggestive of a tropical drink rather then ale!, hence my suggesting brown sugar, which will turn the ale a lovely golden colour. Precooking the ginger in some water will also improve the colour. I will upload some photos of my new improved Ginger Ale over the next few weeks.

 

Peppermint and Rose Creams

I have always wanted to make my own sweets or confectionery as it is otherwise delightfully called! I always make my own truffles at Christmas and marzipan sweets but want to try my hand at things like fudge, nougat, boiled sweets and creams. Here is my recipe for Peppermint creams:

 

 

Ingredients

1 large white egg [save the yellow yolk for cooking again]

400grams of Icing sugar [about 2/3 of an average bag of icing sugar]

1 Teaspoon of Peppermint Extract [or homemade Peppermint oil]

Simply stir in the icing sugar gradually with the egg white. Add a teaspoon of peppermint extract at this stage [I used my own peppermint oil that I made about a month ago] and fold in until you have a firm dough. Roll out onto a board sprinkled with icing sugar and cut into shapes. Leave on greaseproof paper overnight, covering with a t- towel, turning occasionally until the creams are totally hard. Keep in a air-tight tin.

I made a batch of peppermints creams to start [this mix makes about two dozen] and then made Rose Creams by simply adding a tablespoon of Rosehip Syrup that I had made last autumn. These creams were much sweeter and slightly pink in colour and quite delicious.

 

Chamomile and Cucumber Lotion

I have recently begun learning how to make my new creams and lotions as since the skin is the largest organ in the body, I am careful about what I put on my skin and would rather use the less harmful chemicals the better. One recipe I found recently and then adapted is for Chamomile [a gentle soothing herb] and Cucumber [great for sensitive skin] lotion. It was incredibly easy to make and only needs three ingredients.

Half a Locally Grown ideally organic Cucumber [in view of the recent cucumber crisis]

A mug of strong freshly brewed Chamomile tea

70ml of Glycerine

Using a juicer, extract as much juice as possible from the cucumber and place in a bowl. Add the Chamomile tea when it is slightly cooled and then the glycerine. Mix well and when cool, pour into containers of your choice. I used the small bottle the glycerine came in. Keep in the fridge and use the same as you would any other lotion. I have been using this lotion twice a day now on my face and body and find it very refreshing, moisturizing and calming, and am quite delighted with it!

 

HorseTail Hair Tonic

Horsetail is one of the richest sources of Silica in nature, silica is a essential part of your hair, skin and nails and is found in plants but our modern diets can be often lacking in this nutrient leading to weak nails, brittle hair and pour skin quality. To make a simple yet effective tonic for your hair, I recommend collecting a dozen horsetail stems. Wash well and then bruise slightly crushing the stems between your fingers. Place in a large bowl and pour enough boiling water over the stems until the bowl is almost full. Leave for a few hours and then sieve. When cool, pour over your scalp the next time you are washing your hair. Easy as can be! I will leave you with a poem which Ive always liked and which seemed fitting for the first day of summer.

 

Poppies

Where Clover nestles, rich and nectar – blessed,

Among the murmuring wayside wilderness,

A blaze of blood – bright poppies Sprang to flame,

Vibrant and sweet as new – found happiness.

 

Dimming the blushing sorrel’s rosy warmth,

Melting the foam – cool clouds of meadowsweet,

Like fronds of fire they glimmered through

The green

And fell, a shower of sparks, among the wheat.

 

Joan Howes

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4 thoughts on “Wild Strawberry Rambles

  1. Hi,
    Elderflower will put out new flowers over the summer. Flower heads will be replaced.

    I have had a lot of experience with brewing both elderflower wine & ginger ale (alcoholic & non-alcoholic).

    It is easier to control everything if you use larger containers (like purpose built fermentation vessels or even the plain old 5L plastic water container).

    They build up gas like crazy – its best to use plastic screw cap bottles to release gas from time to time

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      1. If you are making Ginger Ale (i.e. non alcoholic, or low alcohol) it is easy to control – allow the yeast to ferment at room temperature for 2 days only, and then chill it in the fridge. This pauses fermentation and prevents explosions.

        If you need to ferment over an extended period (i.e. for any alcoholic fermentation) you are better off having proper equipment and airlocks. It saves hassle, and I have a lot of problems with improvised vessels. If you are near galway, home brew west have an actual retail store where you can get equipment. Brian is also really helpful with advice.

        If you need any other help and such, I write a bit about my fermentation projects on my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Sum-of-all-Beers/118163454951949) – the Sum of All Beers. Been getting back into it after my move to the UK and I have been experimenting a bit more.

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