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make wild woodland stuffing foraging

Wild Woodland Christmas Stuffing

Do you want to bring a little WILD to your Christmas table this year? Learn how to make our delicious Wild Woodland Stuffing which includes foraged ingredients; mixed woodland mushrooms, sweet chestnut, wild garlic bulbs and nettle.

Making this stuffing not only gives you a great excuse to get out in the woods in the run up to Christmas to gather some wild ingredients, but it tastes great and it will be the talk of the table.

This stuffing recipe was created by James and Lea Kendall. We are foragers and outdoor activity leaders based in North Wales. We found that using some of the wild foods that we’d been gathering all year in this stuffing was a satisfying way to celebrate our foraging journey over the past year.

The stuffing gives a strong, earthy flavour. This recipe serves 8 – 10 people, or if you’re a smaller group then there’s enough for turkey and stuffing sandwiches on Boxing Day 🙂

wild woodland christmas stuffing recipe - foraging

INGREDIENTS

270g breadcrumbs (wholemeal works best)

30g dried wild mushrooms – we used penny buns (ceps), parasols and brown birch boletes

4 bulbs wild garlic, finely chopped, use fewer if you want a less strong garlic flavour

300g cooked and peeled sweet chestnuts, roughly chopped

2 leeks, finely chopped

25g butter, plus extra for greasing the tray

1 tbsp olive oil

15g of fresh nettle tops or dried nettle leaves, finely chopped

2 eggs, beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

make wild food christmas stuffing

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.
  2. Soak dried mushrooms in 350ml boiling water for 10 minutes so they soften. Drain, keeping the liquid for later, and chop them into small pieces.
  3. Add a few tablespoons of the mushroom liquid to the breadcrumbs, gently mix and leave to soak for 5 minutes until flavoured.
  4. If using fresh nettle tops, pour boiling water over the leaves to kill the stings and leave for 5 mins before draining then chopping finely.
  5. Heat the butter and oil in a pan, add the leeks and garlic and cook until softened. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool slightly.
  6. Stir in the remaining ingredients to the bowl until well mixed up. Season with salt and pepper then form into balls and place onto a buttered tray or dish.
  7. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and crispy on the outside.

For the ultimate wild Christmas dinner, you could serve this stuffing with roast wild pheasant or partridge.

 

DISCOVER MORE FORAGING

If you want to get outdoors and learn foraging for yourself then you could come on one of our popular wild food courses.

We host our courses both in the woods in North East Wales and also regularly online through zoom sessions.

Check out our upcoming events to see what wild food courses we’re hosting soon:

VIEW EVENTS & COURSES HERE

wild food & foraging courses north wales

James & Lea host wild food and foraging course in North-East Wales. Get in touch to find out more.

A DEEPER LOOK AT THE FORAGED INGREDIENTS

In our recipe we used the following species of wild mushroom; parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera), penny bun (Boletus edulis) & brown birch bolete (Leccinum scabrum). These were selected because it’s what we had available dried already. There’s no doubt that the parasols and penny buns have great flavour, however the birch bolete is more bland and not an essential ingredient for your own recipe.

If you don’t have a supply of dried wild mushrooms that you’d foraged back in autumn then you could always buy a pack from the local deli.

When gathering nettles (Urtica dioca) at this time of year, it’s all about beating the frosts so you don’t get withered leaves. Only pick the top four leaves of the nettle and go for the plants which are in good condition and still young. They can be found in December, especially if you look where land has been grazed or cut, so you get nettle regrowth.

Unless you have had the mystic foresight to roast and then freeze some foraged sweet chestnuts back in the autumn, you’re probably going to have to head to the shops again.

wild garlic bulbs foraging

Notice the shape of the bulb; tapering at either end and bulbous in the middle. Length is around 5-6cm.

DIGGING UP WILD GARLIC BULBS – GOOD PRACTISE

If you’re thinking of digging up wild garlic (Allium ursinum) bulbs then bear in mind that you’re are actually removing the wild plant from it’s habitats, not just harvesting the leaves which renew each year. So there’s a coupe of things we need to think about here so we’re exercising good practise as foragers:

  1. It is the law in the UK that you need the landowner’s permission to uproot any wild plant.
  2. You should only dig up bulbs from a spot where you know there to be an abundance of wild garlic in the spring, that way we’re only taking a very small amount of what’s in the ground.
  3. If you dig up any other bulbs that are not wild garlic then they must go back where and as you found them.
wild bluebell bulbs

You can see here that bluebell bulbs are a different shape to wild garlic bulbs too.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning english bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) which also grow from bulbs and can often by found in amongst wild garlic at ancient woodland sites. We don’t want to be digging these up and eating them, they are poisonous.

If the bulbs you’re digging up don’t smell strongly of garlic then they’re not what you’re looking for. So, give the bulb a sniff before putting it in your basket. Bear in mind that when handling a lot of garlic your fingers will start smelling of it too so make sure you’re smelling the bulbs and not your fingers 😉

how the robin got its red breast

How the Robin Got its Red Breast

We love telling stories around the campfire with children at our outdoor activity sessions, especially those tales that are set in the woods and star the creatures that the kids could see for themselves. I think it helps bring the forest alive for their imaginations.

This short story, How The Robin Got Its Red Breast, is a great one to tell on a cold winters day with the campfire crackling away. For me, the story’s message is that no matter how small you are or seem to be, you can achieve great things.

“Long, long ago, when the world was new, as the winter Sun was setting, and the land was locked in ice and snow, all the creatures believed that the warmth they had enjoyed throughout the long summer was lost forever and might never return. They were cold and afraid.”

“As the winter winds blew through the forest, a small brown bird was sheltering in a holly tree and he thought to himself, ‘What could I do?’ Somehow he knew the warmth that had gone belonged to the Sun, so he decided to fly to the Sun and ask for it back. As he took flight the holly twig on which he was standing snapped off, so he took it with him, he thought it would make him feel braver to take a piece of home on his adventure.”

“He flew up, higher and higher he climbed, and as he flew, he felt the heat of the Sun increasing. He flew on, getting hotter and hotter, until he could hardly bear the heat any more and his feathers were scorching, he was so close to the Sun! But still, he was determined to get an audience with the Sun. Then suddenly the holly twig he was carrying burst into flames. He was so shocked that he fainted and fell, down, down, spiralling back to the Earth.”

“When he awoke he realised he still had the burning twig, clutched between his feet. He had done it. He had brought the Sun’s fire back to Earth, and everyone could warm themselves in the heat from the flames. He was a hero! And because he was so brave, and because his feathers had been scorched on his adventure, to this very day, he is still called Robin Redbreast.”

how the robin got its red breastArtwork by Karen Carter at Hedingham Fair

The Robin is probably the UK’s favourite bird. It’s known as the gardner’s friend because it’s often seen perched near to where earth and soil is being dug over, revealing lots of juicy worms. I’ve often had a Robin as my companion when I’m practising my bushcraft skills in the woods. he’s always hoping I’ll turn over some leaves or dead wood in the hope of a easy meal.

To find out more about the Robin, where it lives, what it eats and what it sounds like. You can visit the RSPBs website which should answer all your questions here.

Robin in the Snow

12 days of forest school

The 12 Days of Forest School

We’ve taken the classic Christmas song and given it our very own twist. So join us for a good old fashioned sing-along. We love singing this around our campfire with our kids groups throughout the festive season.

Forest School sessions are all about letting children be in charge of their own learning and giving them the chance to explore wild spaces on their own terms so they can grow emotionally and intellectually. We run plenty of outdoor sessions throughout the winter because we believe that children should have access to great outdoor activities all year round.

Enough of all that though, on with the song…..

We’ve made a series of pictures to celebrate each of our 12 Days, which also showcase many of the awesome activities that children get up to at forest school sessions. You can see these images by scrolling through…

first day of forest school christmas

 

second day of forest school christmas

 

third day of forest school christmas

 

fourth day of forest school christmas

 

fifth day of forest school christmas

 

sixth day of forest school christmas

 

seventh day of forest school christmas

 

eighth day of forest school christmas

 

nineth day of forest school christmas

 

tenth day of forest school christmas

 

eleventh day of forest school christmas

 

twelth day of forest school christmas

We love singing this round the campfire with the kids through December and you’re very welcome to use this song too. Here’s a run down of the lyrics:

“On the first day of forest school I had the chance to see…

A child climbing in an oak tree.

Two muddy boots

Three storytimes

Four crawling bugs

Five golden leaves!

Six kids a whittling

Seven mushrooms sprouting

Eight campfires blazing

Nine shelter builders

Ten monkeys swinging

Eleven axes chopping

Twelve hunters tracking”

 

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

boy at forest school in winter with candles

Making the Most of Winter in the Woods

boy at forest school in winter with candles

Wintertime in the woods changes things quite dramatically. The cold, wet and early darkness means thinking differently about the activities we do with our children. Something that the kids look forward to as we approach midwinter is our Winter Wishes activity, something that’s simple enough to recreate yourself.

As the nights draw in I’ve found the children are naturally drawn to the campfire, they head for its light and warmth. Here stories can be told, chestnuts roasted and fire-sticks made. There is also a magical feel to this time of year that can be embraced as well as encouraging the kids to think about what’s going on in nature around them.

Children are full of excitement and anticipation for Christmas and the school holidays. They are mesmerised by the darkness and the dancing flames, it is a time for wishes and wonder and staying close to each other for warmth and protection.

Winter solstice (which falls between December 20th & 21st) is a turning point where (in the northern hemisphere) we are at the peak of the darkness, it being the shortest day and longest night. There is the knowledge of more light to come, as from this day forth the days get slowly longer and with that comes a deep sense of hope, new beginnings and the promise of spring.

At our Forest School we winter solstice at forest school with kidslike to mark the winter solstice as this is all about welcoming the returning light to the earth and it gives the children a chance to reflect on their year just gone and their wishes for the coming year.

We mark this occasion with out Winter Wishes activity. Whilst sat in a circle, away from the campfire, each child has a turn to light a candle and make three wishes;

One wish for themselves

One wish for their community

and one wish for the Earth.

We don’t insist that the children speak their wishes out loud if they don’t want to. This gives them the option to make a very personal wish that they may otherwise be too embarrassed to speak out loud to the group.

As each child lights a candle and adds it to the growing cluster of others the light increases, mirroring the increase of sunlight and turn of the wheel of the year as we move through winter and toward spring.

Winter solstice is a moment of pause between two cycles, a moment of transition that can be held and savored….take a moment to experience this edge between these two great cycles. It is also a moment to look forward, to name the new seeds and intentions we wish to take into the next cycle.” Glennie Kindred, Letting in the Wild Edges

I feel that it is important that we give the children a chance to wish for the wider community, especially as at this time of year it can be very easy for kids to get wrapped up in themselves as they receive so much over the Christmas period. Setting good intentions for the world can be their way of giving.

children around campfire in winter forest school

There’s plenty of other fun and games to be had in the winter woods. Our kids cook damper breads on a stick, use flashlights and Morse code to send messages through the dark, they light their own fires and cook baked beans in their tin (cowboy style) to share. All this helps dispel the fear of the darkness and develops their night vision by using all their senses. The kids go back to their homes with rosy cheeks, smelling of wood smoke and full of tales of shadows and mystery. Outdoor learning and play certainly doesn’t need to stop just because it is winter.

Happy holidays!

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