Unleashing the Delicious Secrets of Foraging Wild Plants for Hot Cacao
Last weekend, we embarked on a foraging adventure alongside Olwyn Williams, a highly knowledgeable Forager and Wild Food Tutor based near Loughrea, Galway in Kylebrack. Our mission was to discover local, wild plants to enhance the flavour and nutritional value of our hot cacao beverages.
Before we proceed, it is of utmost importance to emphasise that you should only gather and consume plants if you are absolutely certain about their safety.
To begin, we gathered some elderflower, which happens to be in season at the moment (June). Elderflower is widely recognised for its use in cordials, fizzes, and as an addition to gin. However, it also possesses incredible medicinal properties. You can infuse elderflower directly into honey, tincture, or vinegar. On that day, we infused the elderflower directly into the milky cacao as it was being heated.
Additionally, we incorporated fermented elderberry honey, homemade by Olwyn last Autumn. The combination of elderflowers, elderberry honey, cacao, and coconut milk was truly remarkable! It imparted a delightful floral essence and resulted in one of the most delightful hot cacaos we have ever sipped on.
While elderflowers are harvested during the summer, elderberries, which grow on the same tree, are an autumn crop. To create the honey, simply gather a plentiful amount of elderberries and place them in a jar, layering them with honey. The juice from the berries will infuse into the honey over the course of a few weeks. Due to the juice diluting the honey slightly, fermentation occurs, and upon opening the jar, you may notice a fizzy effect. It is advisable not to fill the jar completely to the brim to prevent overflowing.
Both elderflowers and elderberries offer excellent respiratory support, making them beneficial for combating flus, colds, and coughs.
Continuing our exploration, we stumbled upon some spruce tips, which are the young, vibrant parts of the spruce tree. The most flavorful sections are the closed, light green tips that are soft and tender. These tips pair wonderfully with cacao or chocolate. You can dry and grind them into a powder, adding them to your cup of cacao. Alternatively, you can create your own spruce-flavored chocolate. They possess a slightly citrusy and tangy flavor, rich in vitamin C, making them ideal for maintaining a healthy respiratory system. Another delightful option is to infuse them into honey, which can be drizzled into your hot cacao.
Next, we encountered wild roses. There are various types, including the field rose and dog rose. These roses exhibit pink or creamy white flowers, each boasting five petals. Infusing them into tea or milk for cacao is a fantastic way to enjoy their essence. Moreover, you can infuse them into honey, incorporating the honey into your cacao preparation.
Cultivated Garden Rose
If you have cultivated roses in your garden, they can also be utilised. Olwyn personally favours these, as they offer larger petals and a more pronounced fragrance. However, it is essential to ensure that the roses have not been heavily sprayed with pesticides, particularly if they are not from a flower shop or garden centre.
Rose is widely renowned for its association with emotions, particularly grief and matters of the heart.