Autumn is over and there’s a distinct nip in the air. A highlight of an otherwise grey week was a foraging session with Robin Harford. Who would have thought that there was a feast to be had if one knew what to look for in Wormwood Scrubs (a large green parkland in West London)?
In love with roses
Robin showed us many medicinal plants with seriously impressive nutritional credentials. Apart from the known ones like nettles, there were leaves and herbs for making teas, and edible flowers that would beautify any dish. My favourite was the dog rose, a variety of roses that grows pretty much in all parks and gardens in London and has the most delicate aroma, and the petals are deliciously sweet. Rosehips are apparently great for tea. All roses are edible, but this aromatic and sweet variety would make a delightful addition to desserts and bakes.
wild and wise
Continuing on the wild theme, I managed to finish reading “Eating on the Wild Side” by Jo Robinson. It has been an eye-opener for me on many levels. Much of modern produce has seen a dramatic loss in nutrients and flavour, but Robinson helps readers choose wisely to maximise nutritional content. For e.g. some varieties of tomatoes have ten times more phytonutrients than others. Knowing which ones to choose and how to store them can make all the difference. Although her book covers largely American varieties, it is still a useful guide for readers globally.
A few surprising tidbits from the book that I want to share:
- Unsurprisingly, bitter greens are amongst the most nutritious. Fatten them with unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil to maximise absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Interestingly, tearing the leaves increases antioxidant content. This is true for greens like kale and chard.
- Chop garlic and leave for 10 minutes before cooking with it. This maximises the allicin (which is the good stuff in garlic). Easy to do if you just plan your meal prep.
- Potato skin has 50% of the antioxidant activity in the entire potato. So eat the skin, and if you can buy coloured potatoes, (think purple, yellow etc.) that’s even better.
- If you love beetroots, eat the leaves too. They are more nutritious than the beets.
- Smaller tomatoes are higher in lycopene so cherry tomatoes are an excellent choice. And surprisingly, tinned tomatoes are actually good because the heat involved in canning increases the absorption of lycopene.
- Likewise, tinned beans are higher in anti-oxidants than home-cooked ones.
- Sadly, frozen peas and beans, although very handy, aren’t as nutritious as fresh ones.
- Pressure-cooked dried beans retain their antioxidant value better than boiling them in lots of water.
- In the berry world, blueberries and blackberries are the most nutritious. Frozen berries are almost as good.
Recipes this week
At a philosophical level, I have been contemplating my future a little more. This means more time spent on plotting and planning. Compromised for time, I have recently been cooking from the recipes that I have already posted on the blog. Fortunately, this has helped me correct errors and add more detail to recipes if needed. (If you have been thinking of perfecting pizza, now would be a good time, as I have updated it slightly).
Pizza followed by a near-perfect tiramisu should warm a few jaded hearts. And this week, we ate burrata, which is a real crowd-pleaser and some deliciously simple lamb kebabs to keep the carnivores at bay. Finally a super-quick
Many thanks also to my helpful readers, who diligently inform me of any mistakes they find. Onward and upwards to truly perfect recipes!
Love your wild side and cook wisely too!