So, the race is on, hazelnuts are popping out all over the place but we are not the only ones with our eyes on them. Squirrels are poised and ready to pounce on these beauties too.
Boggle Lane people love to forage but we also like to make sure we leave enough for our furry and feathered friends and we are careful not to take too much or damage the plants we harvest from.
This time of the year, wild hazelnuts are fresh and green. When the papery outer covering starts pulling back from the nut, they’re edible. You can pick and store in a warm, dry place keeping them in their shells. Once they’re ripe you can roast them in the oven and make so many delicious things including hazelnut butter, cakes, cookies, lovely crusts for red meats - especially lamb or crush them and sprinkle on salads… oh, now I’ve gone and made myself hungry again!
Good for you!
Hazelnuts are good for your heart as they are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They are an excellent source of vitamins E and B, and help maintain healthy skin, hair and nails. They also contain potassium, calcium and magnesium which can help regulate healthy blood pressure, don’t eat too many though they full of calories!
So it’s no wonder squirrels are so agile, fit and healthy!
We love Midsummer’s Eve because it’s a time when foraging takes on even more mystery and magic.
Herbs and plants have been bathed in the strongest energy of the sun and so are even more potent than usual. So, we do a lot of picking around this time!
Even though for some, Midsummer means the sun has reached its strongest and days will begin to shorten again, for us though, it heralds the beginning of summer and all the wonder this brings.
There are lots of myths, tradition and folklore linked to the Summer Solstice with many beliefs that herbs picked now take on magical properties. Some believe that putting certain herbs in a bag and carrying them with you bring different blessings e.g. Basil – protects and attracts new career and business opportunities, Bay leaves – intensify intuition and strengthen wishes and intentions, Mint – helps bring prosperity your way and guards your home against negativity and Rosemary – allows you to receive mystical knowledge and wisdom through intuition and dreams and promotes spiritual healing
Summer Solstice is when the northern hemisphere of the Earth is most inclined towards the sun, and that's why we get the most daylight of the year.
During the winter solstice, the northern hemisphere is tilted furthest away from the sun, hence fewer hours of daylight and the shortest day.
The word solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because the seasonal movement of the Sun's path (as seen from Earth) momentarily comes to a stop before reversing direction.
I’ve just checked and it is official, the summer is almost here.
How do I know? Well as soon as the beautiful umbrellas of white flowers begin to appear on the Elder bush it’s a sure sign. I can’t wait to start collecting these beauties to make an array of uplifting drinks and sun-filled goodies!
The first on my list will be Elderflower cordial, a refreshing and reviving tipple that seems to saturate you in goodness with every sip. I’ll also be marrying my Elderflowers with home grown gooseberries which are also becoming plump and juicy. They will make fabulous cordials, cakes, sauces and jams – what can I say but, yum, yum here comes the sun!
The recipe I use to make Elderflower cordial:
Gently rinse 30 Elderflower heads. Pour 1.7litres/3 pints boiling water over 900g/2lb of caster sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir this well then leave to cool. Then add 50g/2oz citric acid (available from chemists) 2 sliced unwaxed oranges and lemons. Then add the Elderflowers (after removing stems and greenery). Leave in a cool place for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain the mixture through a tea towel or muslin and put into sterilised containers – you can store in the fridge or freeze for when required.
Did you know?
Elderflower has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. It is rich in antioxidants and its healing properties have for centuries been used as a remedy for coughs, colds, hay fever and even rheumatism, so much so that it has acquired the nickname of Nature's Medicine Chest.
Health Benefits of the Elderflower
Elderflower tea was used as a blood purifier and as a tonic or ointment to fade freckles or skin blemishes. Many modern skin tonics still contain Elderflowers
I’ve just collected some lovely fresh young nettle leaves ready to make a jug full of iced summer breeze.
That’s the name I’ve christened my nettle, lemon, mint and ice drink. Now that the sun is finally making its heat felt, I thought I’d rustle up this lovely non-alcoholic tipple to put some zing back after a long day’s digging, foraging and cooking.
Nettles are renowned for amazing health benefits so I grab a big glass jug and add two good handfuls of ice, then add some fresh mint (about five chopped leaves), then a halved lemon or lime (and its juice), two dessert spoons of organic honey, and then the wonderful chopped nettle leaves (young ones only as the older ones can be a little tough).
After a rigorous stir I simply pour into a long glass and enjoy (or if I can resist temptation, I’ll leave it in the fridge to develop even more flavour). What a thirst quencher and so good on a hot day!
Did you know?
Nettles are bursting with nutrients: including vitamin C, B vitamins, Vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, phytonutrients and a tiny amount of Omega 3 fats.
A cup of cooked nettles has nearly 430mg of calcium – nearly half the recommended daily intake - a cup of milk only has around 300mg!
I have just completed my last collection of Primroses and I managed to gather various lots of shades of purple, some white and yellow beauties too. These flowers were not for any vase but instead to make into sweets.
Yes sweets! Sugared Primroses are delicious and can make any cake become the bell of the ball!
Simply wash and dry each flower (making sure you have removed all the green leaves and stems). Then make an egg white mix with a little water. Whisk it until it looks like washing up water (with lots of bubbles). Then paint each flower carefully with the mixture on both sides of each flower (I use a small clean paint brush to do this so that I don’t drown the flowers in mixture).
As you coat each flower, dip them in a tray of caster sugar to cover each one, then shake gently to get any excess off and put face down on clean kitchen paper to dry.
In 24 hours or less you will have naturally beautiful decorations that should last at least three months (if stored in an air-tight container in a cool dry place).
Mine never seem to last this long as I feel compelled to make cakes just so I can dress them in gorgeous sugared Primroses - so beautiful and delicious!
There is no substitute for a real flower decoration which can make any cake a showstopper.
Primroses can be found in woodland, grassland, hedgerows (and maybe in your garden!)
Wild Garlic is found across most of the country. Mainly in damp, ancient woodlands, shady lanes and under some hedgerows. Like Bluebells, it prefers slightly acidic soils so if you know a good Bluebell wood it’s likely to have Wild Garlic too, sometimes as a carpet of white and green anytime from March to June.
Wild garlic leaves are at their best and most flavoursome when bright green before the flowers open. As they age and start to turn yellow and the flavour reduces.
Do not dig up Wild Garlic bulbs. Unless you have landowner’s consent it is illegal and the bulbs are disappointingly small. Harvest leaves, stems, flowers and seed pods using scissors. Look out for bird droppings! Pick a little here and there rather than too much in one place and watch where you are putting your feet. As you pick, it is easy to bruise the leaves so put them gently into a basket or bag without packing them in. Like many wild leaves, they will wilt after picking so use quickly or refrigerate (in a sealed bag!).
Great raw in salads, sandwiches, dressings and finely chopped as a garnish. A popular use is in pesto in the place of basil. Try making your own garlic butter or garlic bread.
When cooked the leaves can be used in many ways. The simplest use is as a vegetable as you would prepare and serve spinach. It can also be used blanched and pureed as a sauce for white fish, in soup (“neat” or mixed with nettle tips), stews, pasta sauce, risottos, quiche, frittata, cheese scones, focaccia, dumplings, in Chicken Kiev and lots more.
The leaves can be preserved in honey, oil, as pesto, in pickles, chutneys and vinegars. A puree mixed with oil (rapeseed or oil) can be put in jars (Kilner preferable to tin-lidded) and covered with a little oil or frozen in ice cube trays. The leaves can be dried with a dehydrator or in a very low oven. When dry (brittle) store in jars in a dry, cool, dark place.
Good for you too!
Garlic is widely known for its antibacterial, antibiotic and possibly antiviral properties, and contains vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and copper. Studies have also shown that it may help reduce blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.
If you are struggling to find them - try searching for Bluebell Woods on the Woodland Trust's website - https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/map/
Select Bluebell Woods in the feature option! Have FUN!