These herbaceous plants with jagged leaves and covered in stinging hairs carpet any landscape that’s left unkempt. The woodlands edge, banks of streams, dark corners of gardens and parkland are all places that nettles will thrive given half the chance. Luckily for us they are delicious and nutritious, and perfect in our quick and easy soda bread…winning!
Nettles have a plethora of uses in our kitchen.
We blanch them and add them to salsa verde, stir them through scrambled eggs or in this case we blitz them into buttermilk and use them as a base for our soda bread. If you want bread in a hurry, soda bread is ideal. Not only is it incredibly straightforward to make, there’s no real kneading involved. A great first loaf to make for novice bakers, as well as younger ones!
So don your finest marigolds and head out to your nearest patch and pick away.
We advise you to pick the younger nettles from the top of the plant, as they are less fibrous (and tend to avoid ones where the cocked leg of any dogs may have passed by!). Also, avoid picking nettles from wasteland or near to a road where lots of traffic passes, as they might have absorbed some pollutants (no thanks!).
Good handful of young nettle leaves and/or wild garlic
½ pint buttermilk
170g / 6 oz self raising flour (wholemeal or brown)
85g / 3 oz plain flour
85g / 3 oz seed & grain bread flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
The Wet Ingredients
Gather your nettle tips (with gloves on) before they flower. Strip off the stems until you have enough for one large handful of leaves.
Heat oven to 200C/Fan 180/400F.
In a blender or large jug, add leaves and buttermilk. Blend until smooth.
The Dry Ingredients
Put the flour, salt and soda into a mixing bowl. Form a well in the middle and pour in the nettle buttermilk. Quickly mix together with a fork until a soft dough is formed.
Turn out mixture onto a floured surface, lightly need for 2 minutes then form into a round shape.
Put on a floured baking tray. Flatten the top of the dough and score the top in a cross.
Baking your Loaf
Cook for 30 minutes until the dough sounds hollow upon tapping. Leave the soda bread to cool on a wire rack.
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Before you set off there are a few foraging guidelines to keep in mind to avoid any injury to yourself or the natural habitats you encounter.
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Always forage small amounts for personal use, leaving adequate produce for animals and insects to indulge on, as well as other foragers!
IF IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT.
Only eat something if you are 100% sure of its identification, as some plants can make you unwell, or worse still – some are even deadly. Books are very helpful for this; one of our favourites is ‘Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland‘, ‘Food for Free‘ and ‘The Forager’s Handbook‘. Websites and social media groups can also be helpful, but make sure you trust the source entirely before you eat your finds
PICK FROM PLENTIFUL PLANTS
Only forage from plants that have produced plenty of fruit as the plant depends on this to reproduce.
WATCH YOUR STEP
Choose carefully how you access your foraging finds. Avoid crushing plants and habitats underfoot whilst hunting for wild foods.
LEAVE ROOM FOR RE-GROWTH
Avoid taking too much twig and never uproot a plant so that it is always able to regrow after you have foraged from it.
Your foraging kit should include – a small legal carry knife or secateurs, gloves to protect your hands from plants that may sting (the humble nettle) and thorns, and a basket/container or three. Don’t forget to wear long trousers and long-sleeved tops to protect your arms and legs from natural nasties such as ticks (find out more about ticks here.)
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