Wild vases

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Just a quick pre-summer suggestion:

No need or reason to buy cut flowers this time of year to decorate your home. And frankly…how sustainable are most of those bright, gaudy flowers, flown in from far corners of the world, from plantations sprayed with chemicals. I say – save the money and take a lovely walk outside and look at what is around you – wild greens, by some considered weeds, make beautiful decorations. And they keep really well, mine have been in vase for a little over a week now.

Here’s what I’ve brought home recently:

Burdock stalks: Burdock has a life span of two years  – the first year it develops its root and big leafs that stay close to the ground. Second year it grows a stem and develops flowers, or what we know as “burrs”. Cut them before the flowers open. They make for a very stately bouquet.

Burdock (Kardborre). Arctium lappa.
Burdock (Kardborre). Arctium lappa.

Another plant that is shooting out the ground with the speed of lighting right now is Meadowsweet (Älgört). Pick the stems before it goes to bloom.

Meadowsweet, Älggräs (Filipendula ulmaria)
Meadowsweet, Älggräs (Filipendula ulmaria)

Wild Raspberry branches are a favorite – the are tall and last for weeks in a vase.

Wild raspberry, VIldhallon, (Rubus idaeus)
Wild raspberry, VIldhallon, (Rubus idaeus)

Don’t forget to begin to explore wild grasses. They are beautiful on their own and amazing to mix with other wild plants.

Wild beauties.
Wild beauties

Stay wild!

Lisen

Wild Cooking at Restaurangakademien

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Just have to share this – I was invited to do a workshop with foraging and cooking at Restaurang Akademien (Restaurant academy), something I was very humbled by, since this is a place that represents culinary knowledge and competence for professionals and lay people and play a big part in developing Swedish gastronomy on a daily basis. And the workshop was for people in the industry only so which made my ambitions fly sky high. But a little pressure can be very conducive to creativity and I decided to just…let it flow!

We met up at 9 am and lucked out with the weather which was sunny and warm, perfect for a foraging hike in the park. The group of 20 enthusiastic “food nerds” traipsed after me into to forest. It was fun to watch their suprised faces when finding so much food where all they saw was lush greenery. Foraging isn’t just about picking plants for food, it’s also about becoming more familiar with and aware of what nature gives us, learning to differentiate plants and see how they interact. To gain an insight in our very intimate relationship with nature and how our survival is depending on it, and hopefully awaken a desire to treat it with respect and love, just the way we treat ourselves and all other living species we share this planet with.

Result of our foraging, 18 lovely local, abundant plants.
Result of our foraging, 18 lovely local, abundant plants.

Amongst the greens we found were Yarrow, Nettles, Garlic mustard (Löktrav), Wood sorrel (Harsyra) Elm fruit (Almfrukt), Sweet Woodruff (Myskmadra), Sweet Cicely (Spansk körvel), Dandelion flowers, Spruce buds, Birch leaves, Meadow sweet (Älgört), and Fireweed shoots (Rallarros). I could see the minds working on this creative group, discussing the flavors and how they would best come to use,

We also discussed the importance of what I call “ethical foraging” – now that it has become very popular to go out and eat wild plants i see a lack of knowledge – knowledge as to how we fit into the ecological system and what plants are OK to pick:

– it is not OK to pick the whole patch of anything. It looks so inviting and abundant and greed settles in and we’re tempted to take it all but that is a NO NO NO! Only take maximum 20% of what is there.

– If it is an unusual plant, leave it where it is. Our survival is not dependent on this one plant bit the plant itself is – it needs to be left alone so it can reproduce. Also it needs to be there for those insects whose lives DO depend on it.

– Do not dig up roots or break branches without landowners permission.

– Forage gracefully: leave no traces behind – the patch where you picked should look the same as when you arrived.

– Say Thank You. Nature hears and appreciates that.

Nettle chips
Nettle chips

Happy with our harvest we returned to the Restaurant Academy where I let the group create the menu as well as recipes. In my headI had planned for them to cook a 3- course meal and there was fish, pizza dough, vegetables and rhubarb to add to the wild greens. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the level of ambition and creativity this group contained – they cooked up a storm! And we ended up eating a 7-course lunch! With pizza as an appetizer. And everything was so GOOD, I wish I could share the flavors with you but here are some pix to enjoy: We started off with Pizza as an appetizer. Not one but no less than FIVE pizzas. Yes, we finished them all.

Various wild goodies
Various wild goodies

Followed by Tempura fried Greens with Meadowsweet Mayo.

empura fried Greens with Meadow Sweet Mayo
Tempura fried Greens with Meadow Sweet Mayo

Then a slightly lighter snack.

Wild pesto served in Endive with Dandelion flower and Woodsorrel
Wild pesto served in Endive with Dandelion flower and Woodsorrel

Then: the Main course.

Perch, Sweetpotato purée, Sweet Cisely, Asparagus and Deep fried Nettle
Perch, Sweetpotato purée, Sweet Cisely, Asparagus and Deep fried Nettle

To fill out the last space:

Puréed potatoes with Yarrow (I think it was), Elmfruit and Woodsorrel
Puréed potatoes with Yarrow (I think it was), Elmfruit and Woodsorrel, Roe and chips from Jerusalem Artichoke.

To my great surprise, we had room for the desserts (yes, plural…):

Honey candied Hazelnuts with Sweet Woodruff flavored Rhubarb, Elmfruit, and whipped cream. Think it miahgt have been a Woodsorrel granité in there too
Honey candied Hazelnuts with Sweet Woodruff flavored Rhubarb, Elmfruit, and whipped cream. Think it might have been a Woodsorrel granité in there too

Dessert no 2 was a Sweet pizza with Rhubarb, Wood sorrel, Nettle, Spruce buds served with home made ice cream made from Fresh cheese.

That’s it!

Forage with grace, connect daily with nature and enjoy what it gives you – use it wisely.

Lisen

Proud to be wearing this apron!
Proud to be wearing this apron!

Flowering salt

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Pink, green or yellow herbal salt will add vibrancy to the simplest of meals. It’s supereasy to make: choose an herb you like, flower or leaf, mix with fine, unbleached seasalt, store in a jar in a dark, cool place. This way when winter looms around the corner and nature is at rest, you just open one of your jars, inhale the scents of summer and life will flow back into your body.

Of course you can make herbal sugar the same way. Great to use for baking.

Blomstrande örtsalt Foto: Lisen Sundgren
Salt with: Field mustard, Rose and Sweet Cicely. Photo: Lisen Sundgren

Here’s some of the herbs I like to use: Birch, Basil, Blueberries (dried), Borage, Spruce buds, Wood Sorrel, Goutweed, Sweet Cicely, Nettles, Roses, Calendula, Field mustard, Violets, Lilacs…to mention a few.

You can also use the salt to scent a bath, just throw a handful of it in the tub. Or mix the herbal salt with oil for a great body scrub.

Björkskrubb Foto Charlotte Gawell ur Lisens Örtspa
Birch scrub. Photo Charlotte Gawell (from Lisens Herbal Spa)

For a bath salt you can also just put the flowers and leaves in salt, whole, without mixing them. Store in a jar. The salt will absorb the scent from the flowers.

Blommigt badsalt Foto Charlotte Gawell ur Lisens Örtspa
Flowery Bathsalt. Photo Charlotte Gawell from Lisens Herbal Spa

Scent your life!

Lisen

Spicy Field Pennycress

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Thlaspi arvense. Try saying it fast ten times. Thlaspiarvensethlaspiarvensethlaspiarvensehlaspiarvensethlas…. a litte something to do when you get bored. Thlaspi arvense is the latin name for Field Pennicress.

The “penny” in the name is a result of how the little seed capsule that looks just like a coin. This is the part of the plant that you want to eat. The stalk is edible but has very long, strong fibers.

Penningört
Field Pennycress
Penningört. Foto Lisen Sundgren
Field pennycress

Enjoy the “coin” while green, the flavor is like a mix of pepper, mustard, onion with a slight bitterness. The strong flavor is best partnered with cheese, root veggies, beans, cooked grains or meat. If you crush the “coints” in a mortle, crush them with a pestle and add oil. Use the liquid as a wild salad dressing.

My favorite thing is to roast them quickly in a dry pan so they become nice and crispy, then sprinkle them over food.

Roasted Field pennycress, photo by Lisen Sundgren
Roasted Field pennycress

Field pennycress is easily recognized: it’s tall, erect, likes flower beds as well as the roadside.

Medicinally it is said to be antirheumatic, diuretic, expectorant and hepatic, anti inflammatory, febrifuge. The seed can be used as a tonic. In Tibetan medicine, the seeds are considered to taste acrid and have a cooling effect. To add to its gifts Pennycress has an antibacterial activity and is said to be effective against the growth of Staphylococci and streptococci.

It has been used to treat a range of symptoms variying from carbunles to endometriosis.  Use with caution: large doses can cause nausea and dizziness.

Enjoy

 

Lisen!