Wild Foods Guide 'N'
This is the fourteenth of my series of 26 postings on wild foods. Each post will deal with a separate letter of the alphabet ('M' today) and will describe a wild food beginning with that letter as well as presenting a classic recipe incorporating that wild food.
Today I'm dealing with the letter 'N', the fourteenth letter of the English alphabet, which includes foods such as Navew, Nosebleed Plant, Nettles, Navelwort, Nori and many others. Today, however I am going to devote this page to Navew (Field Mustard) and Nettles.
The Navew (also known as also known as Filed Mustard, Wild Mustard, Yellow Mustard, Wild Turnip, Wild Kale, Bird Rape, Cale), Brassica rapa var campestris is the annual or biennial ancestor of modern Turnip, Rutabaga, some kales and rapeseed (canola). It hybridizes readily with many other barssicas and as such is agriculturally considered a weed. It is not a true 'mustard' in that mustard seeds are produced from the related species Brassica nigra (black mustard). However, in late winter or early spring, mustard greens present one of the most valuable wild foods. Substantial, highly nutritious, deliciously hot-flavored, they are top-notch added to salads, cooked, or juiced. Such keen concentration of flavor and nutrients makes an eminently healthy, even shocking, addition to the diet. The seeds can also be harvested for use as a flavoring, or can be sprouted. Thus wild mustard is a very useful addition to the store of wild foods available to us. It can also be cultivated and makes an useful pot herb and can be substituted in any recipe calling for 'mustard greens'.
Here I present a classic modern Fusion recipe for an Indian-inspired curry of Navew (wild mustard greens) with green beans :
Curried Wild Mustard Greens with Beans
200g wild mustard greens (or you can use any strongly-flavoured greens eg kale, collards etc)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp mustard seeds (preferrably black)
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp freshly-grated ginger root
3 birds-eye chillies, finely chopped (de seeded if you don't want it very hot)
1 400g tin of beans (butter beans, barlotti beans, black beans etc)
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp curry powder
80ml double cream
Wash the mustard greens, remove the stems and cut into strips. Bring a large pot of lighly-salted water to a boil, add the mustard greens and blanch for a two minutes or so. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain and rinse under cold water to prevent further cooking.
Meanwhile heat the oil in a large pan and add the mustard seeds. Cook until these begin to pop and flavour the oil then add the onion and fry until gently browned. Stir-in the ginger and chillies then add the spices. Now mix-in the beans and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 5 minutes before stirring-in the mustard greens and cream. Continue cooking until heated through and serve on a bed of rice.
This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Curried Wild Mustard Greens with Beans Recipe from the Fusion Recipes collection of the Celtnet Recipes Collection.
If you are interested in recipes for Navew (Wild Mustard) then you can find a range of Navew (Wild Mustard) recipes.
Nettles (Stinging) Urtica dioica, is an herbacious flowering plant in the Urticaceae (nettle) family. they grow to some 1.5m tall in summer, when they flower, before dying down to ground-cover in winter. Their soft green leaves are broadly spear-shaped and have a strongly-serrated margin.
Everyone recognises the stinging nettle (generally referred to just as 'nettles') and many of us have been stung by this plant. Nettles are covered with tiny, nearly invisible stinging hairs that contain histamine and formic acid that produce an intense, stinging pain, followed by redness and skin irritation. The generic name comes from the Latin word, uro which means 'I burn'. Bizarrely, whilst the stinging nettle is normally ery painful to the touch, when it comes into contact with an area of the body that is already in pain, the chemicals can actually decrease the original pain. This is why the stinging nettle is also termed a counterirritant. Indeed, Applying juice from the stinging nettle to the skin can actually relieve painful nettle stings or insect bites.
In ancient times, the nettle was an extremely versatile plant. It was used as an analgesic, the fibres from the stems were woven into string, ropes and cloth. Mature nettle leaves were used to wrap fish, meat and cheeses. Most importantly, the young leaves of nettles do not sting and can be used in salads, to make soups, to make puddings. Even the older leaves of nettles, once boiled, do not sting and can be used in a variety of dishes.
The recipe presented below is for a classic Estonain recipe for a classic nettle soup garnished with eggs.
Nettle Soup with Egg Garnish
100g young nettle tops
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp plain flour
500ml vegetable or beef stock
salt and black pepper, to taste
2 hard-boiled eggs halved lengthways
1 tbsp finely-chopped dill
1 tbsp finely-chopped chives
Bring the water to a boil, plunge the nettle leaves in this and blanch for 2 minutes (this will remove the formic acid that causes the stinging). Drain the nettles in a colander, rinse under cold water and drain before roughly chopping. Add to a blender along with a little of the stock and purée until smooth.
Meanwhile, add the oil to a pan and use this to fry the onion on medium heat until soft but not coloured (about 6 minutes). Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir to mix in. Fry for 1 minute to remove the rawness of the flour then slowly add the stock, mixing in to blend with the flour roux. Add the remaining stock, stirring in, then bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes before adding the puréed nettles. Allow to heat through, season with salt and pepper then ladle into warmed soup bowls.
Add a halved egg to the soup and sprinkle the chopped herbs on top. Serve immediately
This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Nettle Soup with Egg Garnish Recipe from the Celtnet Estonian Recipes Collection, part of the Celtnet Northern European Recipes Collection
If you are interested in recipes for Stinging Nettle then you can find a range of Stinging Nettle recipes.
This guide is brought to you in conjunction with the Celtnet Wild Food Recipes collection.
You can find more wild foods beginning with the letter 'N' on the Wild Food Guide for the letter 'N', part of the Celtnet Wild Food Guide.