There is something amazingly satisfying about making your own bread. In the countryside we do not rush to the supermarket like many of our city counterparts, instead we bring out our favourite ingredients and serve warm bread with our homemade soup. The comfort of warm homemade bread, dripping with salted butter warms your cockles. This time of year, we can find some foraged treasures out in the countryside to make our bread have some seasonal goodness.
We have a love hate relationship with nettles, memories of running through the fields and falling into a deathly patch of nettles – we can still feel the sting. They grow practically everywhere (don’t we know it) and in the woods there are no pesticides on these edible gems. The leaves this time of year are wonderfully tender and full of flavour, they also provide a wide range of nutrients that will give our bread an antioxidant boost. Try adding chopped nettles to your wholegrain loafs to add its delicious spinach-like flavour.
Also known as Ransom’s garlic, it can be found in damp shady woodland in large clusters. If you happen to come across some on your country walks, it is a sign that you are walking in some very old woods! When you find the cluster, the smell of garlic when you crush the leaves will help you identify it correctly. The leaves are an amazing fresh substitute to the garlic bulbs we find in supermarkets and have similar anti-viral properties, blending some with olive oil will make for some seriously delicious garlic bread.
A sign of early spring, the small perfumed purple flowers will be starting to grow and bloom on the floors of our woodlands. The flowers have a distinct floral flavour used commonly in confectionary and puddings; it is also known for its inflammatory properties. Making some sweet violet syrup to add to your sandwich bread instead of golden syrup can make a playful change to your usual recipe.
Tip: There are fewer sweet violets growing due to over picking, so if you need larger amounts consider growing them yourself.
Violet Syrup Recipe
5 Handfuls of Sweet Violets
200ml Boiling Water
Remove the stems and green centre of your sweet violets, then place them into the bottom of a large container.
Pour the boiling water into the container and mix to create a tea. When the liquid has cooled, place it in the fridge and leave it for 24 hours to infuse.
Pour the tea into a pot using a sieve to remove the flower heads, put the liquid on a medium heat. When it has warmed up add your sugar and slowly turn the heat up high.
Once the liquid has thickened to a syrup consistency bring it off the heat and pour into a sterilised glass bottle.
The hardy and evergreen gorse bushes are flowering this time of year in heaths, coastal grasslands and even local gardens, their flowers are a wonderful ingredient for our loafs. While the peapods are toxic, the coconut scented flowers in amongst its sharp spines is often used in Bach flower remedies. Adding some gorse petals to the dough of a wholegrain loaf will add a subtle coconut and floral vanilla flavour.