Category Archives: Bulbs

Prickly Bear Sauce

It’s stinging nettle top plucking time here in Amsterdam. Most people realise that they are edible and that they sting.  I”m often asked how to eat these prickly iron and protien-rich freinds.  There are many ways!

Some people like to roll them up and eat then raw. I prefer them cooked or added raw to smoothies. Nettle soup is popular and I like that but I’m fonder of incorporating nettles into creamy, garlicky sauces.  I’m making one this evening so I thought I’d share how.

I’m calling this little sauce recipe The Prickly Bear because it contains stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) which are clearly prickly and wild garlic, scientifically known as Allium ursinum, Bear onion. You may know it better as Ramsons, Daslook or Wild garlic.

To make enough sauce for 4 – 6 people, I used:

Olive oil

3 banana shallots

20 stinging nettle tops (top 4 full leaves and stems)

Handful of wild garlic leaves

5 chestnut mushrooms

3 table spoons sour cream

1/2 good quality stock cube

Salt and pepper

Gently saute a few chopped shallots (or a medium onion) in butter, ghee or olive oil.

Add washed and chopped stinging nettle tops, before the shallots are thoroughly cooked.

Cover with a lid and allow it all to steam for a few minutes. Stinging nettles benefit from being nice and soft when you eat them so don’t rush this step.

Now add the chopped Ramsons. Give it all a good stir.

Add sour cream, salt, pepper or a little of a good quality stock cube.

and then add a hearty pile of sliced mushrooms (preferably chestnut mushrooms).

Replace the lid and simmer gently for 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms are cooked and tender.

Serve with whatever you like. I stirred it through some gnocchi this evening and sliced some Comte cheese over the top.

Foraging Wild Garlic

Three beautiful blades of Wild garlic / Ramsons / Daslook (Allium ursinum), plucked from the River of Herbs orchards in Park Frankendael today. I made some pungent daslook sauce from these, by blending them with olive oil and a little apple cider vinegar.

And here are a couple of year old wild garlic bulbs which I removed from the orchard path. The reason for this is discussed in the podcast. Have a listen and let me know your uses for the plant and if you have had any success growing it. The paths are edged with fallen branches. In this photo you can see how the plant spreads into the paths.

I only forage wild garlic when there are huge swathes of it and the leaves are a few inches long.

I’m off to make some dinner using a little of that sauce now. Perhaps you would like to listen to my latest podcast, about ethically foraging Wild Garlic and how to use it.

Wild Garlic Mojo / Pesto

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People tend to call herbs blended with pine nuts and cheese, Pesto. I know of another herb blend called Mojo, from holidays in Tenerife. Green mojo is similar to pesto but has more kick to it due to it containing garlic and coriander and they don’t add pinenuts, basil or cheese generally. I began turning today’s Wild Garlic harvest into a sort of pesto and it turned out far more like spicy Mojo. So I’m calling this Wild Garlic Mojo, because if you know both you’ll find this far more akin to Mojo than Pesto. I also like the name as the garlic properties certainly get your mojo up and running!

Wild Garlic Mojo
Take one handful of ethically harvested wild garlic leaves. Place in blender.
Add 250 ml best quality Olive oil, juice of half a lemon,
pinch of quality sea salt,
handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Sprinkling of pine nuts.
Now blend to a fine consistency which should be very easy to pour. Mojo is runny.

Store in sterile glass containers and use as a spicy, aromatic, digestive dressing for grilled cheese, meat, tofu etc or as a useful cooking seasoning.

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Mojo originates from the Canary islands and should have heaps of colour, flavour and punch. This has them all.

What a waste!


Finding this discarded bunch of foraged ramsons, made me very sad yesterday. Not only did someone harvest the flowers of this wonderful wild herb but they also didn’t even eat them! I was even sadder to see them still on the ground, this morning. The flowers of wild garlic taste inferior to the leaves and by removing them, careless foragers prevent new seeds being formed so this bulbous plant can spread far and wide.

Please spread the word about how to forage responsibly so that everyone can enjoy herbal beauty and bounty in our cities, for generations to come.

Ramsons are back on my plate!

They’ve been looking verdant and smelling great for weeks now but today was my first little ramsons harvest of the year. Just two leaves, plucked from a huge swathe of wild garlic, will be enough to set this evening’s meal alight. So that’s all I picked. I urge anyone thinking of foraging any plants, to abide by foraging rules and pick very sparingly. Only harvest what you know you will be able to use straight away.

Today I saw several ramson patches, on the edge of the lime avenue in park Frankendael, which were clearly recovering from careless picking. Leaves were torn, twisted and looked generally damaged. It’s saddening to see but more importantly it shows that many individuals don’t know how to harvest correctly and responsibly.

That’s the main reason I lead occasional herb walks in town. If you’d like to join at any time then please get in touch with me via email. I passionately believe that far more people should know the herbs around them and understand how to harvest if appropriate and use them safely. But unfortunately some foragers cause harm and I’d really like to help limit that.

There are many others herbs, currently looking ripe and perfect for use, here in Amsterdam. Nettle is just perfect at present, the new tips will be my next target for harvesting, destined for some home made pasta and a nourishing infusion. More on that next week.

Butternut Squash & Sage Pies

Pies remind me of home.  Here is a recipe for very tasty muffin sized pies which uses purple sage to enhance the flavours of butternut squash, sweetcorn and chicken.  They taste great hot or cold and make a handy packed lunch food.

I use homemade yoghurt pastry dough for my pies and quiches, I will post the recipe for that later.  Alternatively you could use an all butter short crust pastry or puff pastry for the crust.  The recipe includes a very small amount of fresh chicken,  I just added some leftovers to my pie filling, but this can easily be omitted for vegetarians.  You may also like to add a little chopped fennel to the filling.  Pies are a good way to use up fresh left overs as from a little filling you can create a lot of tasty little pies!

Butternut Squash & Sage Pies – makes 12 (muffin size)

Ingredients
Pastry (see above) –  enough for a quiche base
Knob of butter, ghee or olive oil
5cm slice Butter nut squash, peeled, deseeded and finely cubed
1/2 small can of sweetcorn or a handful of frozen kernels
1 medium-large onion, finely chopped
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube, or 1 dessert spoon of bouillon powder or 1/2 cup fresh stock
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
6 large fresh  purple sage leaves, finely chopped (or 1/2 tsp chopped dried sage)
1 dessert spoon creme fraiche
1 dessert spoon finely chopped lean fresh chicken
Handful grated goats’ cheese or cheddar type cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
12 hole non stick muffin tray, greased with butter or ghee

  1. Preheat oven to 190° C (375° F) and prepare muffin tray.
  2. In a pan with well fitting lid, heat the ghee/butter or oil and gently cook onion, with lid on pan, until sweet and clear.
  3. Add the garlic and sage to the onions and cook for a further minute, stirring all the while to prevent the garlic from burning.
  4. Add the cubed butternut squash, chicken and sweetcorn and quickly mix into the oily onion/herb mixture.
  5. Add about 1/2 cup of water and the stock cube or fresh stock and bring to the boil.
  6. Cover with a tightly fitting lid and simmer for about 7 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender.  Check now and then that the water has not evaporated or been soaked up completely.  You should end up with a well cooked mixture which is moist but not sloppy.  If the mixture is too wet, cook a little longer with the lid off.
  7. Remove from heat, add the cheese and creme fraiche.
  8. Stir into the mixture, adjust seasoning to taste and set aside to cool whilst you line the muffin holes with pastry
  9. Roll out pastry quite thinly (probably about 1/5cm thickness).
  10. Use a round pastry cutter or similar to cut out 12 circles, large enough to just line each muffin hole.  Push the pastry into the holes carefully so that the filling will not break through it when added.
  11. Add a desert spoonful of filling to each hole.  It should come close to the top of the pastry lining but not above it.
  12. Cut 12 smaller circles of pastry, just large enough to top each pie.
  13. Gently press the edge of each pastry top into the pastry which lines each hole.  You don’t need to be too exact with this but if you are too rough your pie contents may bubble out.
  14. Cook at 190° C (375° F) for about 25 – 30 minutes.  Keep an eye on your pies to ensure they don’t burn.
  15. Remove muffin tray from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, until the pies can be easily extracted.  You may need to loosen them carefully with a knife.  Check they can spin in the muffin hole before removing.
  16. Eet smakelijk!These pies can be frozen BEFORE they are cooked in the oven.  I much prefer to cook the whole batch, eat half hot on the day I make them, store the rest in the refridgerator and eat those cold the next day.

Last Chance Ramson Pesto (Wild Garlic, NL:Daslook)

On Thursday I visited my freinds in De Hortus Botanicus and helped them to harvest some Wild Garlic/Ramsons (Allium ursinum, NL:Daslook). It grows vigorously in several parts of the beautiful garden and periodically is removed from paths and areas where it out-competes other plants in the Hortus collection.  I took home a large tub of whole Ramson plants; roots, bulbs, leaves and all.  I made a delicious batch of Last Chance Ramson Pesto.

So why Last Chance, you may ask?  In my local Frankendael Park, the Ramsons are currently in flower so it’s too late to harvest them. Ramsons are still edible when in flower but they taste rather unpleasant. The Ramsons in de Hortus are not yet in flower and they taste great!  In another week or so they too will be in flower and it will be almost another year until they are fit for the plate.  Another reason for my excitement is that I can only harvest Ramson leaves from the local parks.  Harvesting the roots and bulbs would destroy the plants so of course is completely out of the question for wild plants in their natural habitat.

Last Chance Ramson Pesto – vary the proportions as you wish.  Those stated made a good thick paste.

  1. Carefully wash the Ramsons (as you would spring onions), discard any odd squidgy bits from around the bulbs and trim off any really dirty roots.
  2. Roughly chop the clean Ramsons and place in blender.  I had about 150g Ramsons.
  3. Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil to blender. I added about 200ml.
  4. Add finest quality pine nuts (beware cheap ones, many people have a bad reaction to them). I added 50g.
  5. Add a good grating of rock salt and pepper.
  6. Blend gradually until a thick paste is made.  I needed to interrupt blending several times to scrape down the paste.
  7. When a homogeneous consistency has been made, add grated cheese and blend a little more to combine and break up the cheese (hard goats cheese for me, you may like Pecorino, Parmesan or similar).
  8. The result should be a paste which is thick enough to dollop into cooking mixes and thin enough to be stirred straight into hot pasta.  Add more Olive Oil or more cheese to obtain a better consistency if required.  I made about 650ml of pesto.  It will keep me going for quite some time.
  9. Store in sterile jars and refrigerate or freeze in ice cube trays.
  10. Use as a straight pesto on pasta or as a super garlicy seasoning in other dishes. I added two teaspoons of my pesto to this sauce for salmon and prawns.  It was delicious!  I understand that Michael used it on fresh cheese ravioli and I used it the next day in a risotto.  The list of uses is endless…

Ramsons (Allium ursinum, NL:Daslook)

The woodland floor in Frankendael Park is carpeted with flowering snowdrops and the emerging leaves of Ramsons (wild garlic, Allium ursinum). I’m sure snowdrops have their uses but when you find them, Ramsons are an urban herb forager’s dream.  All parts of the plant are edible and very useful, though the leaves and flowers are all you should use.  The bulbs should be left alone and only pick a leaf or two from any plant.  They taste truly delicious – if you like the taste of garlic!  They taste best, by far, before the pretty white flowers open and can be eaten from early spring, when the first leaves emerge from the soil.

Ramsons have similar properties to Garlic but are milder in all respects.  They are also more tolerable to those you have difficulty digesting other members of the onions family.

  • Ramsons can be eaten raw or cooked and act as a gentle spring tonic.
  • They act as a gentle blood cleanser, stimulating the circulatory system and so benefiting the heart, memory, eye sight and skin.
  • They can be very helpful to those suffering from bowel problems, such as Crohn’s disease, IBS, colic, ulcerative colitis, flatulence, gas and bloating.  They have a mild cleansing and calming effect and are said to balance gut flora.
  • They have mild antibacterial and antifungal properties, making them useful as a poultice for boils and minor cuts.

Until yesterday I had only eaten Ramsons as a spicy addition to salads and cheese sandwiches.  Michael & Elodie at de Hortus told me about Ramson pesto last week so, after a quick afternoon forage, Ramson pesto and home made pasta was on the menu at my home last night.

The recipes I found for Ramson pesto called for a heap of leaves; fine if you live in the country and have access to huge swathes of Ramsons but I don’t.  The Ramsons in city parks need to be shared by many and have more pressures to endure throughout the year.  So today I picked twelve leaves and made enough pesto for two people – it was delicious and as you an see, the intense colour is striking.

Urban Ramson Pesto
6 Ramson leaves per person
Olive oil
10 Pine nuts per person (optional)
Pecorino or firm goats cheese (optional)

  1. Gently but thoroughly wash the Ramson leaves. Pat them dry.
  2. Chop as finely as possible, using a sharp knife.
  3. Place chopped leaves in a small bowl and add enough olive oil to loosen them up and create a useful pesto type consistency.
  4. Add finely chopped pine nuts and grated cheese if you like.
  5. Use in salad dressings, as a pasta sauce and generally in cooking in place of garlic.For some guidance on safe foraging please look here.