Wild Caraway for a warm heart

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“This is paradise! THIS is how life should be!” That’s the first thought that went through my mind when I arrived at the home of one of my favorite potters, Anna Lindell. Together with photographer/ foodstylist Bianca Brandon Cox we took a trip out her to shoot a small film (soon on You-tube) about the meeting between the wild edible plants (my specialty) and her ceramics. Read more about Bianca here:  http://www.foodphotographyandstyling.se/

Anna lives on the farm where she grew up: Rosendal outside of Nyköping. Here she has her workshop, her horses, the family and miles and miles of forest and fields. She’s living my dream! Life, work, friends, family. All woven into on beautiful, creative, lifesupporting weave.

Med Anna Lindell. Foto Bianca Brandon-Cox
Me and Anna Lindell. Photo by Bianca Brandon-Cox

Oh, yes, Caraway. I get sidetracked. We took a walk in the edge of the forest and in the garden to see what we could forage to eat. I love cooking this way – when the place and the moment creates the meal. We found the intensely blue Common Milkwort, Nettles, Red Clover, Spruce buds,  Lambs Quarters, Pineapple weed and, to my great joy, Caraway. Which I have known grows wild in Sweden but never had the fortune to find till now. Oh joy.

Kummin
Caraway. Photo: Lisen Sundgren

Caraway has been valued since thousands of years as a warming spice as well as for its medicinal properties. It is common to flavor bread, cheese, cookies and snaps. I love the flavor of this tiny seed – it warms up the heart and the belly, it stimulates digestion och relieves cramps and gastric problems. If you look closer at the kind of food where Caraway is used, you notice that these are dishes that are not altogether easy to digest without a little help from this friend, like splitpea soup, bread and cheese. Caraway does the trick for a smooth transition! How was it now he said, the wise mr Hippocrates..”Let the food be thy medicine end the medicine thy food”…This never grows old.

Inspired by Annas garden and what I had found I threw together a “Garden soup” which we enjoyed with a wild salad, fresh bread and great conversation. These are the moments I live for: spontaneous meals sprung out of what the place, season, day has to offer. Enjoyed in good company, surrounded by nature and an allowing atmosphere where conversation flows freely.

Nässelsoppa med kummin och granskott
Soup with Nettles, Caraway and Spruce buds.

Here’s our warming Garden soup with Caraway:

3 quarts of Nettles and Goutweed or Lambs quarters

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

1 quart water

1 avokado

some spruce buds or wood sorrel

1 cup soaked almonds or cashew nuts  (let soak 8 hours)

Rinse the herbs.

Bring water to boil. Add the herbs to the water, let boil a few minutes. Pour the soup in a blender, add almonds and avocado. Mix until smooth. Serve in you favorite soup bowl. Sprinkle the spruce buds over the soup. Serve!

 

 

 

Nettles and Caraway go surprisingly well together. A great infusion is made by crushig some Caraway seeds in a mortel, put the seeds in a tea pot, add some nettle, pour boiling water in the pot, wait five minutes. Enjoy.

Caraway looks a lot like Queens Anne’s Lace, but the leaves are more dill-like and its strongest characteristic is the scent – crush the seeds or flowers between your fingers and if if smells like licorice / anise, then you know who this is. The herb grows 30-60 cm tall. Its a biennial and it spends its first year gathering nutrition in the root, and the second year blooming. After it has set seeds it dies down, but leaves behind seeds that have found a home in the surrounding soil that will pass on the great flavor and warming power.

These are the bowls we served the soup in, Anna made them. Perfect for serving food sprung out of the wild.

Keramik Anna Lindell Foto Lisen Sundgren
Ceramics by Anna Lindell

 

Have a great Midsummer!

Lisen

 

Eat Willow herb!

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Willow herb, aka Chamerion angustifolium was on the meny last night at the Royal wedding that took place yesterday in Stockholm. This goes to show that wild plants are definitely food fit for a king. On the menu I believe there was also pine buds and wood sorrel.  Det visar väl att vilda grönsaker är bland det finaste man kan servera idag, helt rätt i min mening. Harsyra och granskott stod visst också på menyn. Det vilda tar sig in i de fina salongerna med stormsteg.

 

Mjölkört på menyn
Willow herb on the menu

The Willow herb likes to grow in poor, sandy soil – along ditches, railroads and in clearings. Around midsummer it has reached over a meter high and will soon bloom with pinkish flowers that grow in a pyramid shaped cluster along the stem. The leaves are oblong and darker on the upside and darker underneath. The tender sprouts are great to eat in the spring, cook and serve them as you would asparagus. The flowers too are edible but quite bitter so don’t overdo it!

Mjölkört ur Nordens Flora
Willow herb, from Nordens Flora

Now that the plant has begun to grow quite tall, I still eat the tops. They have a slightly acidic flavor that I like. I boil them a couple of minutes and serve them with butter and lemonrind. Today I ate them with some wildflowers and served with black lentils. At the moment I’m all hung up on black food, like Beluga lentils, black quiona, black sesame seeds, black rice and black bean noodle. It just looks so great with green food!

Kokt Mjölkört med belugalinser

The most common use for Willow herb is to add the leaves to water and drink instead of Chinese tea. In Russia, this tea was called Ivan chai, and was a rather common beverage. Eventually tea traders began to dilute the tea leaves imported from China, with the much cheaper Willow herb leaf. The bluff didn’t last long.

The tender shoots from the root are soft and tender to eat. Harvest them in the spring or in the fall. They contain quite a bit of carbohydrates, but you need to eat a great deal in order to get your daily requirement…like 800 grams or so. Eat them fresh or steamed.

The root itself is also edible but too bitter to my taste. It tastes better if you roast it first. If you’re really ambitious, grind the roasted root to a flour and use for baking.

Me, I’m happy just eating the tops and brewing a cup of Ivan chai every once in a while.

Eat well, Lisen

Bitter vetch and Bush vetch

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They are difficult to tell apart these little rascals, the Bitter vetch (Lathyrus linifolium) and Bush vetch (Vicia sepium). Both have small, blue-pink-purple flowers, long stems and laciniated leaves. But no matter, both are edible (flowers) and they give flavor as well as beauty to any dish. They taste like sugar peas.

Gökärt och vicker
Bitter vetch (aka Health Pea) and Bush vetch

Let’s begin with Bitter vetch: In a text from 1806 by Swedish botanis A.J. Retzius (Försök til en Flora Oeconomica Sveciæ) it is said that “the roots are lumpy and are much valued in the Scotthish Highlands. They chew them dry: and claim that they not only bring health to the chest but can also still hunger and thirst”. 

Bitter vetch blooms in Sweden from May – June and is easily mistaken for Spring vetchling, (Lathyrus vernus). You tell them apart from the stalk: Bitter vetch has a flat “winged” stalk, whereas that of Spring vetch is square.

Häckvicker
Bush vitch

The flower is best eaten fresh and has a sweet flavor. The roots can be used, and is rich in sugar and protein and has a tastes a bit like licorice. In former days it was dried, ground and used as flour to enrich flat bread. Roots are harvested in mars-april och September – October.

Bush vitch is just as delicious, ad you recognize from its tortuous stalk and the little curly tendril at the top of the leaf. The leaves are are compound and pinnate with 4 to 8 pairs of opposite leaflets.

As with its look alike Bitter vetch it is the flower that you eat. Not the pod, nor stem, and in this case, not the root. The flower is said to contain vitamin C,200 mg / 100 gram fresh herb.

I use the flowers fresh on food. Last night I had fresh (just harvested!) steamed broccoli from Rosendals garden, (where I work from time to time (http://www.rosendalstradgard.se/section.php?id=0000000051), with onion, black quiona and goat cheese, all sprinkled with fresh flowers: Bush Vitch, Red clover and Pineappleweed. Delicious indeed.

Broccoli med häckvicker
Dinner

Next post will be about edible plants by the west coast of Sweden, where I am going tomorrow. They are salty, crisp and nourishing.

Stay tuned!

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!

 

Roses for food and beauty

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The cold and windy Swedish summer makes me cranky and irritable. As I rode my bike the other night, swearing at the cold winds hitting my face I suddenly stopped dead in my track when I saw this: the first Rose of the summer.  Vresros och himmel Foto Lisen Sundgren

A Japanese rose, Rosa rugosa in its first bloom. Also known as Rugosa rose. My frustration over the cold weather was forgotten in a split second, my heart melts and the world smiles again. The Japanese Rose is a sturdy bush, tends to be invasive if not held back. It was originally imported to Sweden from Japan by Linneaus. It has been planted along the shores of Denmark to hold the sand, and has travelled from there to Sweden where it has now established itself in the wild.

I love this rose for its tenacity, its love of life, its generosity and versatility. When in full bloom bees and bumble bees crowd in the flower to enjoy its nectar. After they have had their share, I like to pick them and use them fresh for food and for natural cosmetics. It gives flowers and fruit until the cold overpowers it. Of course, once the Rosehips are ripe, I use those too.

The rose petals taste like…well…Rose. They are sweet, tangy, sweet with a hint of bitterness. The bitter flavor is in the white part closest to the flower base, just cut it off if you want to avoid it.

All roses are edible (other wild ones are for example Dog rose, (Rosa canina), but some taste better than others. Cut roses from the store should only be put in a vase, don’t eat them, they are sprayed with all kinds of toxins.

Use the petals fresh in sallads, in a fresh herb salt, infusion or make a delicious elixir (see recipe below). Dried petals are great for infusions and baking for example.

In my book, Lisens Green World, I shared a super simple recipe for Rose elixir. I was inspired to make it after I, over 20 years ago, spent some time at a holistic hospital to get through some difficult times. My doctor told me that in herbal medicine was used to bring back joy and an appetite for life in patients who had lost just that. He expressed so beautifully “they summon life”.  Roses are also considered to be an aphrodisiac. Good to know, right? Why not serve a Rose Lassi to your beloved (just mix yoghurt, rosepetals, cardamon and honey) on a warm summers day?!

Here is my Rose elixir recipe. Drink diluted with water or mix it in drinks. 

 500 gr (ca 2 liters) fresh rose petals

1 cup sugar

1 liter water

juice from one lemon

Rosenelixir ur Lisens Gröna Värld. Foto Charlotte Gawell
Rose elixir from “Lisens Green World”. Photo Charlotte Gawell

Put half of the Rose petals a pan and add the water. Bring to boil. Remove the petals after they have lost their colour, pour the liquid back in the pan and add the rest of the petals. Repeat the above. After the roses are removed, add the sugar, stir until it has dissolved. Add the lemon juice.  If you’re not using it immediately, pour it in a clean bottle and store in the fridge, where it can last a week or so. Or put it in the freezer where it will last longer.  
In natural medicine the rose is considered to be antidepressant, caming, cooling, astringent, nourishing and anti inflammatory. In ayur veda it is said to balance the heart.

So I see no reason why not to indulge in roses this summer.

Rosenkonfekt my way. Foto Charlotte Gawell
Rose candy my way: nutbutter, honey, vanilla, coconut, cardamon, cacao and rose petals. From “Lisens Green World”. Photo: Charlotte Gawell

Roses are a great flower for beauty, in every sense of the word. They are cleansing, astringent and hydrating. Known as an “anti age” plant. Use them in bath salts, facial masks or in a pind body scrub.

Ansikstsmask med ros Foto Anna Emilia Lundgren
Ansikstsmask med ros Foto Anna Emilia Lundgren

A simple facial mask is made from fresh or dried rose petals, white clay (if you don’t have white clay, use wheat flour), some yoghurt and honey. Mix, apply, rinse off after 15 minutes.

One of my best inventions ever is this sensuous, fragrant Rose Sugar Scrub, from my first book, Lisens Herbal Spa. It’s great to soften hands and feet, but naturally you can apply it all over your body.

Rose Scrub from Lisens Herbal Spa,  Photo Charlotte Gawell
Rose Scrub from Lisens Herbal Spa, Photo Charlotte Gawell

Recipe:

Rose petals from a handful (or like…ten) roses

1 spoon coconut oil

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup almond oil

a pinch lemon rind

a pinch real vanilla

Mix all ingredients in a blender. Put the scrub in a clean, dry jar. It will last 6 months in room temperature.

Use: after a bath or shower, massage a spoon ful of the scrub over your body, rinse off. No need to use a lotion after, the skin will have absorbed the sweet oils and be smooth as a peach.

Ok, that’s it for today, all best, Lisen

 

Salty Birch scrub

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Most of my readers know of my passion for wild herbs as food, but they are so much more! Some are great for the skin .Birch for example. Birch is cleansing, softening and it smells great. What could be better than to prepare your skin for summer with a fragrant Birch scrub.

I used to have a natural cosmetics brand, Lisen Organics, and I made this scrub as a “limited edition” thing every year. They always sold out before I even got them out on the market.

Just for nostalgia – this was the label (by talented graphic designer Hanna Werning):

Björkskrubb etikett desing Hanna Werning

The jars cost several hundred kronor, if you make them yourself, they cost no more than a buck.

All you need is a few handfuls of fresh Birch leaves, fine sea salt and a good vegetable oil such as sesame, almond, sunflower or what else you might prefer.

Björkskrubb ingredienser

2 parts salt

1 part vegetable oil

a handful birch leaves

Blend all ingredients until you have a smooth paste. If too dry, add more oil.

Björkskrubb Foto Lisen Sundgren

Here’s how it looked in my first book, Lisens herbal spa:

Björkskrubb i Lisens Örtspa, Foto Charlotte Gawell
Foto Charlotte Gawell

Use: after a shower or a bath, massage your skin with the scrub, rinse off. No need for moisturizer afterwards, the skin will have absorbed the oil and feel smooth, soft and nourished.

Stay smooth, Lisen

 

Sweet cicely

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Myrrhis odorata. Oh happiness! Sweet cicely has a beautiful sweet scent of licorice, aniseed, sweetness and joy.  I love how it grows, smells and tastes. To begin with it has big, laciniated leaves that when young and tender are light green and then become darker as they grow.  As summer progresses they can get up to 150 cm tall. Seet cicely is generous and sprouts new leaves the whole season, I sometimes harvest it until November!

Äter körvel
Foto Charlotte Gawell

 

The whole plant is edible, root, stem, leaves, flowers and fruits. The fresh leaves taste best raw. Heat makes their flavor disappear.

You recognize them by the scent, the large leaves that has a white marking towards the stem. They remind a bit of Queen Anne’s Lace but they are bigger, more dense and, of course, the scent.

Körvelblom Foto Lisen Sundgren

Sweet Cicely is currently in bloom in Stockholm where I live, despite the unusually cold May. This to me is a sign that summer IS on it’s way, very hopeful. The flower looks like a large snowflake and is beautiful to sprinkle over food.

Sweet Cicely goes great with rhubarb.  A great, easy and delicious dessert is made from rhubarb, Sweet Cicely leaves and flowers:

Lägg dessa ingredienser i en stekpanna med smör och råsocker. Foto Lisen Sundgren
Lägg dessa ingredienser i en stekpanna med smör och råsocker. Foto Lisen Sundgren

Chop rhubarb and put in a hot skillet with lots of butter. After a few minutes, while still “al dente”, add brown sugar. Put on a plate, sprinkle with the greens and serve with whipped cream. So damn good.

Råstekt rabarber med spansk körvel Foto Lisen Sundgren
Råstekt rabarber med spansk körvel Foto Lisen Sundgren

A calming infusion is made from Sweet Cicely leaves and / or flowers. Just pur hot water over the leaves in a teapot. Enjoy warm or cold.

If you’re a more ambitious chef than I am I think you should try making ice cream or sorbet from this sweet green. Tastes great with raspberries.

The flowers are transformed to green, oblong fruits. They are delicious. Eat them directly as a natural candy or put them in the freezer and enjoy them during winter.

Foto Charlotte Gawell. Bild från Lisens Gröna Värld
Foto Charlotte Gawell. Bild från Lisens Gröna Värld

It was said in the Middle ages that Sweet Cicely cured melancholy, so if ever you feel low, eat it!

All best, Lisen

(SWEDISH) NATURAL HEALTH AT ABF – MARCH 11th 2015

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ABF.3

KL 18.00- 20.00

ABF-HUSET SVEAVÄGEN 41

ABF har bjudit in mig till en serie föreläsningar vi kallar Ett Grönare Liv. Jag kommer lära ut vad jag lärt om hur kan vi leva hållbart i en urban miljö,  hur tar vi vara på naturen mitt i staden och lite annat smått och gott om hur det gröna gynnar oss.

Välkommen till en serie kortkurser om mat, klimat, hälsa och hållbarhet för stadsbor som gillar vilda och odlade växter.

Örter för hälsan får du lära dig mer om här: timjan mot förkylning, senap mot huvudvärk och saffran mot oro! Örter, kryddor och blommor kan hjälpa oss att bota vanliga vardagsåkommor som inte kräver läkarvård men som gör tillvaron mindre behaglig. Du får massor av tips om hur det gröna håller oss friskare och piggare med enkla, effektiva huskurer.

http://abfstockholm.se/event/2015/03/naturlig-halsa/

Vi börjar kl 18 och det kostar 250 kronor. Ingen föranmälan, bara att dyka upp.

Vi ses på ABF!

 

Tjingeling, Lisen

(SWEDISH) VEGETABLES IN SEASON – MARCH 25th 2015

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ABF.3

 25 MARS 2015

18.00-20.00
ABF-HUSET SVEAVÄGEN 41

Hur kan vi leva hållbart i en urban miljö? Hur tar vi vara på naturen mitt i staden? Välkommen till en serie kortkurser under temat Ett Grönare Liv, om mat, klimat, hälsa och hållbarhet för stadsbor som gillar vilda växter.

 

Temat för dagen (den 25 mars) är: Vad innebär ”den nya nordiska dieten”? Vad ska vi äta på våra breddgrader och hur ska vi veta vad som är i säsong? Här får du recepttips, förslag på vad som kan förädlas och sparas till vintern på enklaste sätt.

http://abfstockholm.se/event/2015/03/odlade-och-vilda-vaxter-i-sasong/

 

Välkommen den 25 mars kl 18-20

250 kronor kostar det, och det går bra att bara dyka upp, ingen föranmälan behövs!

 

Be happy, Lisen

(SWEDISH) URBAN HERB SAFARI – MAY 20th 2015

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ABF.3
20 MAJ
18.00-20.00
ABF-HUSET SVEAVÄGEN 41

Sist i föreläsningsserien Ett Grönare Liv  på ABF blir ett möte med den vilda naturen mitt i stan! Skörda grönt utan att odla! Man behöver inte bo på landet för att få tillgång till vilda grönsaker. I parker och lundar vimlar det av ogräs som både smakar gott och gör gott för hälsan. Lär dig känna igen vilka växter som går att äta, hur de smakar och hur de kan användas.

Vi ses i entrén på ABF-huset, Sveavägen 41

KL 18-20

http://abfstockholm.se/event/2015/05/urban-ortsafari/ 

250 kr kostar kalaset och det är bara att dyka upp som du är, ingen föranmälan behövs.

Ses!

L

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