With a little curiosity and a few simple recipes, you can transform even the most everyday plants and turn daily walks into culinary forage adventures.
Vegan dandelion ‘honey’
3 slices of lemon
60g picked dandelion petals
We use golden caster sugar, but you could use granulated. Any darker sugars like muscavado or light brown sugar will make it a darker colour, while jam sugar may alter how it sets.
– Soak petals in water for 10 minutes for bugs to leave.
– Strain then simmer for half an hour with lemon and just enough water to cover the dandelion.
– Then steep for 6 hours.
– Strain through muslin and cook gently for up to a few hours slowly adding the sugar.
– Keep checking the consistency on a cold spoon or plate in fridge as it will stay watery when hot.
I mix this delicious rosemary-infused honey with wholegrain mustard and use it to marinate whole-roasted carrots, or drizzle it over a crumpet with poached rhubarb – a surprisingly good combo.
You can eat the tiny purple blossoms that appear on rosemary plants as it blooms: they have a mild, delicate flavour making them perfect to add a subtle hint to honey.
To switch it up, you can also infuse with other ingredients such as lilac, lavender, lemon thyme, elderflower, garlic, geranium, blackcurrant leaves.
– Fill a jar with rosemary flowers and pour in honey (use traditional shop-bought honey or your own vegan version) until it completely covers the blossom: the honey will settle for a bit and the blossom will soon float to the top.
– Cap your jar and leave to infuse for a few days to a few weeks, turning every now and then to keep them coated.
– When you’re ready to use the honey scoop out the mass of flowers from the top and drizzle over your plate of food.
Use to rub over hams, a roast lamb leg or a bowl of strawberries and yoghurt.
Nettle pesto and cordial
We use nettles a lot in the Field Kitchen as they are a very nutritious food and particularly high in vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. They are also very easy to identify and shouldn’t be hard to find! Now is a good time to start picking – it’s the young tender shoots at the top of the plant you want before they flower and set seed.
Make sure you wear gloves to avoid getting stung but once cooked, the sting goes and you can use like any other green.
For the pesto:
200g nettle leaves/tops
2 ltrs boiling water
150ml olive oil
50g pine nuts, sunflower seeds or hazelnuts
1 lemon juice and zest
1 garlic clove
– Wash the nettle leaves in cold water (still wearing gloves) to remove dirt or insects. Then add the washed nettle to a pan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes.
– Strain the nettles but make sure to reserve the nettle tea.
– Squeeze the water from the leaves and place in a blender with the other ingredients. Depending on how you like your pesto you can blend until completely smooth or leave chunkier.
– Season with salt. You can keep in fridge for a couple of weeks.
For the cordial:
1ltr nettle tea
1 lemon sliced
– Place all ingredients in a pan and boil for 2 minutes until all the sugar has dissolved.
– Pour into a bottle and it can be stored in the fridge for months.
For more foodie tips and inspiration, follow the Riverford Field Kitchen on Instagram.