A couple Sundays ago I had the pleasure of returning to one of my favorite outdoor spots here in Belgium: Debbie’s farm in Geel. Last time I was there to learn how to make goat cheese from scratch, and this time I went back for a workshop on how to pick edible flowers and mushrooms.
Debbie runs a small sustainable household, the first one of the kind I’ve visited here in Europe. She’s one of the most resourceful persons I’ve ever met, producing all sorts of homemade goods: soft and hard goat cheeses, breads, jams, hams, soaps, etc., the list is quite vast (and keeps growing).
Her vision is to use as much as we can from our surroundings and enjoy the natural things our environment has to offer. With this in mind, we went for a guided walk in the area around Debbie’s home to find out together with her which little things on the way we could be using at home, but we’re too busy to notice them or don’t have the knowledge and pass by.
You know how they say coming in contact with nature is supposed to be relaxing, this Sunday became exactly that for me: a little escape from the city life. The region is lovely and full of surprises, we didn’t have to walk too far to come across the first edible flowers and leaves.
Will start by mentioning a couple that we discovered just some steps away:
1. Nettle: Helps reduce inflammation and good for allergy relief. Nettle leaves can be plucked when the plant is not flowering and be cooked for tea. Once the nettle plant has flowered, only the seeds are edible.
2. Sorrel: One of my favorite discoveries. This is an edible leave which has a tangy and citrussy flavor, would make a great addition in salads.
3. Tansy: Another fantastic find! This flower is not edible, but can be practically used at home since it repels mosquitoes and fruit flies. Debbie always keeps one close to her fruit bowl.
4. Sage: Apart from its culinary use, this herb is a good anti-septic. Chew one leave and you’ll notice how clean your teeth feel afterwards. Provides good relaxation before sleeping if cooked in tea (combines well with mint leaves).
5. Plantain: Debbie uses its seeds on top of breads, but the leaves can also be used to prepare an ointment good for the skin. Good remedy for insect bites, rashes and cuts.
6. Hawthorn: Its flowers are edible during summer. In autumn the berries can be used to make hawthorn leather, a natural sweet, rich in vitamin C.
The adventure moved on when we walked through both a potato and corn field looking for elderberries. This brought us to our first mushroom encounter (luckily it’s the season now and we could learn some around that topic too).
Tip: Even though it’s not 100% accurate, Debbie tells how mushrooms have a particular smell to them. If you find one with a funny scent to it, better stay away.
A couple mushrooms we learned about:
1. Parasol mushroom: Edible, big in size, has a “skirt” underneath, meaty and easy to recognize. This is what Debbie would call a “beginner’s mushroom”.
2. Horseshoe mushroom: Non-edible, but can still be put to good use at home. This mushroom is an effective fire starter since it produces a good ember.
As you can see, most of these natural resources have not only culinary uses but also practical ones. Keep in mind to pick them up in areas free of pollution (for example: carbon from cars). I would still advice being careful when picking these natural goods, but this experience has made me want to learn more. Not too long ago I went for a walk in the woods close to home and already found myself spotting all sorts of mushrooms and leaves.
We closed the day with a cozy brunch where we could taste a soup and salad made with some of the leaves and flowers we picked up. We also tried a quiche Debbie made with the parasol mushrooms I mentioned above, combined with duck eggs and goat cream, delicious!
If you would like to learn more about this topic in a fun way, I invite you to attend to one of Debbie’s workshops. You can find all the information you need about them here: http://bookalokal.com/
Thanks to the staff from Bookalokal for inviting me once more to one of Debbie’s workshops, I was really excited to attend one of these events for a second time; and to Debbie for opening her doors once more for me, I had the loveliest time.
I’ve also prepared a short video about my experience there, you can watch it here (and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel if you enjoy my clips):
Find more information about them online at:
Debbie’s Facebook Page: Love & Living the Good Life
Tagged: edible flowers, edible leaves, edible mushrooms, field flowers, field mushrooms, hawthorn, herbalist, herbs, horseshoe mushroom, Latest, nettle, parasol mushroom, picking up mushrooms, plantain, sage, sorrel, tansy