Archive for ‘weeds’

July 7, 2013

Foraged Food Indian Style – Creamy Buttered Nettle Panir

by Ciaran Burke


When I mention foraging to people, one of the first remarks made is often in relation to nettle soup… It seems that it is probably the best known foraged food, and while nettle soup can be tasty and delicious, it is a pity to limit the experience of harvesting wild food to the same old recipes. Nettles are delicious and tasty, and can be cooked in a number od ways as a vegetable, steamed and eaten with melted butter and freshly ground black pepper, saured in rape seed oil and eaten with new potatoes or even raw in a salad! If you rub nellte leaves roughly between the palms of your hands you remove the stinging hairs. It must be done firmly and with confidence, as the old saying about grasping the nettles says…

Nettle pesto is also delicious, used as a topping for potatoes or crostini, and of course, mixed with pasta and some finely grated cheese, I like a hard goats cheese with my nettle pesto. One of the most delicious ways that I have cookeed nettles this yerar though, is replacing spinach in the classic Indiam Saag Panir recipe.

While nettles are usually used as young shoots in the spring, older nettle clumps can be chopped back now and the new growths can be harvested in afe weeks time.

Creamy Buttered Nettle Panir – Recipe

Panir is a soft cheese that is easy to make at home. Bring one litre of milk to the boil then add about 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, to make the milk curdle. Then pour the curdled milk through a muslin cloth. Squeeze the cheese in the cloth to emove remaining fluid and then shape into a flat block, like whenyou buy feta. Place the cheese in the cloth on a plate and cover with a chopping board weighed down with a tin of beans or a bag of sugar. Leave for two hours and then either refrigarate or use.

Homem ade panir cheese cut into cubes

Home made panir cheese cut into cubes


  • About 30 young nettle shoots
  • block of panir cut into cubes
  • 125 butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon of onion seeds (nigella seeds)- nothing to do with onions nor Nigella damsecena
  • 4 curry leaves
  • clove of garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 150ml of cream
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 red chilli choped (optional)
mixing the panir and wilted nettles

Mixing the panir and wilted nettles


  1. Put nettle leaves in a steamer and cok until wilted. then cool and set aside
  2. Melt 25g of butter in a large saucepan and slowly fry the panir cubes until browned, then remove and place on some kitchen paper
  3. Melt the rest of the butter, add the remaining ingredients except the lemon juive and chillies. Stir for a few minutes.
  4. Mix the spinach and panir cubes and then add to the mix.
  5. Add the lemon juice and sprinkle the chillies on top.
  6. Serve with brown basmati rice or home made Naan bread- delicious!
Creamy buttered nettle panir

Creamy buttered nettle panir

January 7, 2013

The First Weeds Are The First Harvest- Chickweed Soup Recipe

by Ciaran Burke
Chickweed soup... will warm you up on a cold day

Chickweed soup… will warm you up on a cold day

Happy New Year!

the weather here in the west of Ireland has been unusually mild, which is great in some respects; I can look forward to inhaling the sweet fragrance of Daphne bholua flowers in the next few days, the gorse bushes are about to flower and I can soon enjoy some sweet gorse flower cordial, about 2 months earlier than last year! The downside of the mildness is that weeds keep growing, some have not stopped at all. One that has kept a year round presence in our garden is Stellaria media, known as chickweed or mouse eared chickweed. Luckily it is a tasty plant that can be made into a delicious soup or included in a pesto. So the year’s first weeding session can also be this years first harvest!

Chickweed -Stellaria media

Chickweed -Stellaria media

Chickweed, Stellaria media, is an annual weed which can germinate at any time of year. Its botanical name refers to the starry white flowers that are produced at the ends of the lush green growth. Chickweed often grows in abundance in recently disturbed ground, the seeds are stimulated into growth by light. So when you have done a hard days work getting the flower beds all neat and tidy or sown some vegetable seeds in a carefully prepared seed bed, the first thing you can expect to see is a fresh crop of chickweed starting into growth.

Every one of its flowers is self fertile and each seed pod can produce 2500 seeds. These seeds can lie dormant in the soil for up to four years. When growing well they can re-seed within 6 weeks of germinating. Chickweeds foliage is rampant and can easily swamp out slower growing seedlings and young plants.

Chickweed -Stellaria media foliage

Chickweed -Stellaria media foliage

Chickweed is easy to remove by hand or by hoeing in dry weather. Disturbance of the soil does however encourage a new batch of seeds to grow. A troublesome weed for all gardeners, so what better way to exact your revenge than to eat it, turn it into to lunch or dinner and make a nice soup, it is easy.

Only collect chickweed from ground that has not been treated with weed killers, never collect from busy roadsides or  public places. Make sure you know the plant you collect is definitely chickweed, if you are not sure, never take a chance!

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  1. •1 Medium onion
  2. •2 Small potatoes
  3. •1 Litre of chicken or vegetable stock
  4. •2 Good handfulls of chickweed  pulled from the garden, only use fresh green growth which has not flowered.
  5. •Water
  6. •A good knob of butter and some olive oil
  7. •Salt and Black pepper
Diced onion, diced potato and chickweed - wash the chickweed well.

Diced onion, diced potato and chickweed – wash the chickweed well.


  1. 1.Peel and finely dice the onion
  2. 2.Peel and finely dice the potatoes
  3. 3.Remove big stalks from the chickweed and wash well

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  1. Melt the butter in some olive oil in a large saucepan
  2. Saute the onion until soft and golden but do not let it burn.
  3. Add the diced potatoes and stir in the oil for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add a little water, enough to cover the potatoes and simmer until the potatoes are soft.
  5. Then add the chicken stock and cook until it is boiling.

    When onions are soft pour in the chicken or vegetable stock

    When onions are soft pour in the chicken or vegetable stock

  6. Throw in the chickweed leaves and simmer for about ten minutes.

    Cook until the potato is soft then add the fresh chickweed and cook for a further 5-10 minutes before blending with a hand blender

    Cook until the potato is soft then add the fresh chickweed and cook for a further 5-10 minutes before blending with a hand blender

  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Remove pan from the heat and use a hand blender to blend the soup.
Chickweed soup... chickweed has its own unique flavour...surprisingly delicious

Chickweed soup… chickweed has its own unique flavour…surprisingly delicious

Now serve and enjoy.

From the summer... Chickweed soup, seakale florets and sour thistle salad, a foraged meal...

From the summer, a foraged and home grown meal: Chickweed soup, seakale florets, sautéd nettle shoots and sour thistle salad with new potatoes from the garden,

October 2, 2012

Wild Carrot Seed Spice Cake – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Wild Carrot Seed Spice Cake

We have collected quite a bunch of wild carrot seeds from along the bog road that leads to our house. It is a quiet road which does not have much traffic travelling along it. The concave seed heads make them easy to identify and they are quick to pick. Harvest them when dry and remove from the infloresence. Store them in a box in a cool dry place.

Hanna baked a delicious cake using the seeds.


Wild Carrot Seed Spice Cake – Recipe


  • 125g Butter
  • 1 Cup of dark muscavado sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • ½ tsp of baking soda
  • ½ tsp of baking powder
  • 150ml of kefir (or buttermilk)
  • 200ml of wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1/2tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp of cried ginger
  • 3tsp of ground wild carrot sed
  • pinch of salt


  1. Melt Butter and sugar
  2. When cooled ad spices and kefir
  3. In a separate bowl mix the flour with soda and baking powder with pinch of salt then whisk in the egg.
  4. Add the flour mix to butter mixture.
  5. Fold in the flour.
  6. Put into cake tin, sprinkle some whole wild carrot seeds over the top and bake at 175 degrees Celcius for about 50 minutes.

Wild Carrot Seed Spice Cake

Kefir is a fermented milk  originating in the North Caucasus region where it was commonly used by shepherds. Traditional kefir was made in animal skin bags that were hung near a doorway where by it would be knocked against by anyone entering, this would ensure that the milk would be mixed well with the kefir grains. The kefir grains are produced during the fermentation process, a small amount of kefir acts as a starter for the next batch. Luckily you don’t have to be a shepherd or have an animal skin bag to have kefir. It is sold in Polish and Eastern European food shops. In the recipe above kefir can be replaced with Buttermilk.

Daucus carota- Wild carrot seed heads on our road

October 1, 2012

Wild Carrot Seeds- Spice up your life!

by Ciaran Burke

Daucus carota- Wild carrot seed heads on our road

Adventure, variety and spice. Black tomatoes, orange tomatoes, red brussels sprouts, red onions, blue french beans, just some of the variety of vegetable that we grew in the garden this year. We let two fruit develop on our white fruiting red strawberry, admired the pink flowers on another variety, it is always nice to try something a little bit different.Gardeners are adventurous, always looking to try new varieties of vegetables, different shapes, odd colours and new crops. How about a white carrot?

Daucus carota – wild carrot

Carrots are in the same family as parsnips and celery, Apiacacea, named Daucus carota by the botanists. They grow wild by the sides of the road leading to our house, they have attractive white flower heads and soft ferny foliage. We gathered some seeds a few years ago and sowed some in the garden, they flowered in their second year and then died. Now we have a new batch, self sown and green leaves. Next year they will die. Carrots are biennials, they food that they make in their first growing season is stored in their tap root. The food stored in their roots is high in sugars, that is why we find them tasty. The reserves of food is then used in the following growing season when the plant flowers and makes it fruit which contains the seed, reproduction is hard work.  Such is the biennial cycle, short glorious lives and an abundance of seed is produced which scatters on the wind, ensuring that a new generation of Daucus carota will continue the survival of the species.

The roots of the wild carrots are white, they are smaller than cultivated varieties but taste very similar. Carrots of medieval times were off white like our wild ones and it was during the 16th and 17th centuries that they were bred bigger, fatter, longer and orange. The breeding of bigger orange carrots was apparently carried out in Holland. WIld carrots are quite inferior to the modern varieties  when it comes to harvesting their tap roots, the seed of the wild carrot is however quite a nice spice, like spiced orange.

Flowers of wild carrot

A couple of weeks ago we collected a number of seed heads along our road. Before doing this we took care to ensure the identity of the plants. As always when foraging wild plants it is always essential that you know your plants and with members of this family it is vital that you are 100% sure. The flower heads, or infloresence, are in umbels, often composite umbels and many of the species look quite similar, many of the species are also very poisonous. Fools parsley and hemlock are deadly even in small quantities. So it was armed with a book, Irish Flora by Dr Webb, that we used the botanical key, looking for presence, or absence of brats, hairs on the stems and counting the numbers of flowers that we ensured that we were definitely harvesting wild carrot seeds.

Wild carrot has solid stems and are glabrous, meaning hairless.The flowers are borne in umbels with long numerous bracts which are pinnately divided. When the seeds have formed the flat flower heads the umbels contract into a concave structure.

Harvested wild carrot seed heads

We gathered some handfuls of the wild carrot seeds. Their flavour is unique fruity and spicy, not hot. Hanna used some seeds to bake a cake, it was delcious. Today we decided to use them to flavour our dinner; vegetables in tomato sauce with rice. A trip to the tunnel yielded green and yellow courgette and a handful of tomatoes of various sizes and colours.  Walking through the vegetable garden, some broad beans were picked and an onion pulled. Flavoured with garlic, dried chillis and wild carrots seeds, it was quite delicious.

Vegetables in Tomato and Wild Carrot Seed Sauce.


5 medium tomatoes – chopped

2 cups of courgettes, sliced thinly

  • 1 cup of onion- diced
  • 1/4 cup of broad beans
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • pinch of dried chilli
  • 2 tsp of whole wild carrot seed
  • 1 tsp of ground wild carrot seed (grind with pestle and mortar)
  • Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Rapeseed oil

Courgettes cut into slices


  1. Remove the broad beans from pods and steam for about 5 minutes, until the skins start to crack. Cool the beans by running in some cold water and remove the skins.
  2. Put the oil in a sauce pan and add the whole wild carrot seeds, cook them on a medium heat for a few minutes.

    Removing the seeds

  3. Add the onion and sauté until softened
  4. Crush the garlic and cook for a minute then add the courgette slices, cook for five to seven minutes, until a bit tender
  5. Add the chopped tomato, add the chilli, tea spoon of crushed wild carrot seeds and a pinch of salt. Add some water, about 1/3 of a cup.
  6. cook for about 15 minutes until the tomatoes have reduced and made a nice sauce.
  7. Serve with some boiled brown basmati rice.

Courgettes in tomato sauce with wild carrot seed

We toasted some pumpkin seeds on a frying pan to sprinkle over the top when serving.

September 23, 2012

Dock Seed Wafers – Finally a reason to have dock leaves in the garden

by Ciaran Burke

Dock seed wafers and nasturtium flowers

Rub them on a nettle sting. Apart from that what are dock leaves good for? Well, for a long time I have struggled to find a reason to allow a dock leaf to exist in the garden. Rumex obtusifolius the broadleaf dock is a deep rooted perennial, a thick tap root that is almost impossible to dig from the ground without it breaking. Any portion that remains in the soil will regrow, causing annoyance for most gardeners. Their large oval leaves with wavy edges are not pretty, coarse and rugged, the flowers greenish brown on a ribbed stem that reaches 60-90cm (24 – 36in) high. The flowers each form a pod which turns a dark reddish brown. The wind shakes them free and into the soil they fall, a new dock leaf will grow.

Dock seeds on plant

It is the seeds that have given the dock leaves in our garden a reprieve. Easily rubbed from the stems they can be ground up to make a fine flour. Mixed with spelt or heat flour they can produce a tasty mix, a crispy cracker to enjoy with cheese or pickled cucumber.

Dock seeds in hand

Harvest the dock seeds when they are dark brown. Make sure they are dry, best to collect them when the weather is dry.

We first placed the seeds in a coffee grinder and then ground them finer using a pestle and mortar.

Dock seeds ground to a flour

Dock Seed Crackers- Recipe


  • 100ml dock seed flour
  • 100ml whole meal spelt flour
  • 1 – 2 teaspoon of mixed hedgerow spice:
  • 1/3 hogweed seeds
  • 1/3 wild carrot seeds
  • 1/3 lovage seeds
  • Water


Mix ingredients to a dough that is not sticky.

  1. Sprinkle some flour on a wooden or glass surface, and then roll the pastty very thin.
  2. Place on a baking tray, which has been rubbed with some oil
  3. Cut into squares.
  4. Bake in an pre-heated oven at 170 degrees Celcius for 12 minutes or until crisp.

Cutting the pastry into squares

Dock wafers ready for the oven

A stack of dock seed wafers

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