So, the last couple of weeks I caught the last of the wild green soft parts before everything seeds and discovered the food preserving process of lacto-fermentation. This works something like this:
- Rip or cut up the greens and place layer after layer in a bowl, adding a smidgin of salt each time, press down as you go.
- try mixing in layers plants and flavours you think might go together, eg I mixed Nettle leaves and Horseradish stems together to add texture and fire to the earthy Nettles!
- Force it all down really hard then wait for at least half an hour. Mash up the leaves some more in your hands till they go a bit dark and soft. Repeat for another 30mins.
- Bang it in a glass jar, push down as far as possible to get rid of the air, then top up with MINERAL water til the greens are well covered. NOT tap water. This is because tap water contains chemicals that inhibit the growth of bacteria, and you WANT bacteria. The right kind!
- Get a clean piece of rubber or similar and push the greens underneath the surface of the water with it, leave in place to stop the greens floating up and rotting on exposure to air. It should look something like this….
Note the one in the middle is Bristly Ox tongue in cider vinegar (Picris echiodes) and I havent put anything in to push that down, and it really is, ladies and gentlemen, a famine food…all i could taste was bristles and vinegar, and it really is that nasty shade of grey! Historically it was boiled then pickled, maybe they did something i didnt, id like to know what!
Anyhow, moving on to the good part, after a few days my mixtures all fermented, and every few days I loosened the lids or made holes in the top to allow the gases produced by the Lactobacillus bacteria to escape.
Now for the tasting! I seemed to be the only one keen, my fellow boaties all scarpered despite my invite to be guinea pigs and dine on 2 week old wild plants rotted in water that looks like wee!
The Korean kimchi recipe , (far left) with garlic, nam pla (fish sauce), chilis and ginger smelt exotically funky and spicy, though my greens were a little tough, earlier in the season would have been better. It went down a storm in my miso soup however, a pic of that later! this had Hogweed flower buds, Comfrey flowers and leaves, Nettle, Ground Elder, Horseradish leaves etc!
Nettle and Horseradish – an exciting deep shade of brown to the ferment liquid, like a cold soup. Earthy, mineral rich flavour. Shame that the horseradish lost its fire though. I do love that punch!
Cleavers & Ground Elder – the best of the bunch, the greens were tender and had a gorgeous ripeness like a rich cheese, surprising for cleavers that normally tastes so grassy and mild. Mmmm, with wine and cheese board! and some oat cakes.
Finally I made a Miso Kimchi Soup for dinner which is here:
5 minute meal, just make up 2 cups of Miso soup from paste then add fried thinly sliced button mushrooms, thinly sliced mini peppers, your fermented greens and some walnuts and crackers.
Just right for a steamy damp day in July on the canal!
As for healthiness…eating the Lactobacillus helps you digest other foods, a bit like Yakult, and helps recovery from yeast infections, which is always good. It also contains extra vitamins.