forage · recipe

Foraging herbs around Benediktbeuern

I’m always excited about the diversity of courses offered by the Münchner Volkshochschule. I’ve been to dirndl sewing classes and foraging walks, Bavarian singing evenings and woodworking workshops, fashion sketching studios and cabarets. And with the spring pulsing from every corner out there now is the time for another foraging trip!

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For this one we went south to Kloster Benediktbeuern, the monastery where Joseph von Fraunhofer had a glass kiln and discovered the now called Fraunhofer lines in the solar spectrum! Today, inside his former workshop there’s a little museum showcasing the glass manufacturing process and a few optical instruments. Pretty neat. And now that I’m checking out the website I realise how much more there is to discover! Hello Trachteninformationszentrum: I’ll sure be back. The Salesian monastery is full of life and a haven for youth groups. Oh, and the Klosterwirt is most certainly worth a visit as well.
(There is also a dependance of the research institute Fraunhofer that focusses on historic buildings, but unfortunately so far I had trouble getting in touch with them…)

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Rather than looting the monastery’s herb garden we took to the forests and ponds and bushes and fields. And the Barfußpfad – the barefoot path!  It took me about 10 seconds to get rid  of my shoes and feel the ground beneath my soles. Dub laughed when I asked him how to say Barfußpfad in English and it’s true: it ‘s such a German concept. It fits right in there with Steiner and Kneipp.  But it just feels oh so good to have grass tickle your heels and mud squeezing through your toes. It makes you slow down and take in to ground around you – where are you  going to place your next step, what will it feel like?

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Gundermann // ground ivy
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 Giersch // ground elder
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Scharbockskraut // lesser celandine
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haariges Gartenschaumkraut // hairy bittercress
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Bärlauch // wild garlic

Despite my frolicking we picked quite a number of different herbs: ground ivy and ground elder, lesser celandine, hairs bittercress, wild garlic and stinging nettle,…

basic spring wild herb soup

1 onion, diced
1 knob of butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 litre fresh, cold vegetable broth
1-2 large handful of herbs, chopped
200 ml cream*
salt, pepper, nutmeg

Herbs:
You could use wild herbs such as: ground ivy, bittercress, daisies, sorel, yarrow, ribwort, waybread, young stinging nettle
Use in moderation (these ones can get quite overpowering otherwise): wild garlic, ground elder, dandelion
Store bought herbs also work fine, such as: chives, parsley, chervil, watercress

Sauté the onions in plenty of butter. Once transparent, sift over the flour and stir in about a cup of cold broth (if the broth is too warm, you run the risk of the flour lumping up). Once all the flour has been soaked, stir in the remaining broth and bring to a gentle boil. Add the herbs and cover with a lid to let them wilt for  a few minutes before blending. You could whip part of the cream and fold it in or simply pour it in as is. You may need to reheat a little and season with salt and pepper to taste. I also lie to add a little nutmeg. Voilà!

* While there’s plenty (!) of different cream/milk products in Germany, we don’t really do whipping cream and half-and-half and light and light half-and-half and… to me the fat content of cream lies somewhere between 30 and 35% and that’s that. If in doubt I’d usually recommend going with the higher fat content, but I’m sure half-and-half would do the trick, too.

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