Wild Edibles on The Canal : Bistort, Wild Garlic, Elderflower and Nettles

I am calm and at peace on the water - more so than I have been in months. In the cave of the boat we are living in, I feel held, protected, safe. It is a much more simple life. We have no reception, so the temptation to check news, weather and other shouting media is absent. We have a woodburner on which we cook soups and stews, and a gas cooker. Life is reduced to bare essentials and it is perfect. We have all we need.

We are closer to nature, here, separated by a thin skin of the boat. Sitting on the roof, we watch blue jays build a nest and a squirrel acrobat as it strips sycamore flowers, the excess falling into the canal below. We are told if we are quiet, we may see otters. Jamie saw a spotted woodpecker this morning.


Across the tow path an elder is flowering, which makes a very yellow tea indeed, sweet and rich. Elderflower has anti inflammatory properties - perfect for cold mornings and woodsmoke which irritates my lungs and sinuses. It's also a diuretic, so I only have it in the morning, usually as I practice yin yoga n the early quiet. It's a beautiful flower and smells gorgeous. Many make sugary cordial and champagne from it - I prefer the tea. Last night I made a super strong infusion out of it that I added to a date porridge.


I make soup from wild greens collected by the Avon. The name Avon is derived from an ancient name for river, so I cannot call it River River, though that tickles me. The wild garlic is flowering and in some places seeding, but all parts of the plant can be eaten, and we pick loads of it for meals. Today it is spiced lentil soup, seasoned with spices bought back from India and knobs of ginger.


To the pot I also add handfuls of nettles, rich in nutrients. I don't consume them more than a couple of days in a row, as any wild plant should be eaten in moderation, but my body knows when it is needed, if I listen. Goosegrass or cleavers are added for good measure and a few young bistort leaves.


We found bistort flowering yesterday - a stunning flower. The root is the best and most powerful astringent on this island, and dried and pulverized to a powder, it was traditionally used for wounds and any kind of bleeding such as UTI, gums, or anal fissures and, if I was to stay in England longer, I would definitely collect the roots for my medicine cabinet. However, the young leaves are also a medicinal pot herb, so they too are added to the stew. I also find lots of broad leaf plantain here which makes a great spinach substitute, and if I had a blender, I'd consider a plantain and wild garlic palak paneer. Instead I might try a kitcheree. I make mental lists of all the wild delights I could make - green pesto, bhaji, pakora, sweet elderflower fritters. In my simple kitchen it is easier just to make soups and teas. Oh - and fried mushrooms with wild garlic for breakfast is pretty amazing too. I could not want for more.

Maybe that is a little lie. I wish I could find wild chicken of the woods mushrooms - I see people finding them online all the time, but maybe we are too far south. But I'm happy enough with the wild edibles I do find - they nourish me, and pull me closer to the earth.

What wild foods supplement your diet? Can you find them at the store as well? What are your favourites? @naturalmedicine is holding a challenge where you can win 100 HIVE for writing about them OR about a healthy recipe or drink. We would love to hear YOUR story. Week 1 entries due Saturday, contest closes the week after. Join in the fun!

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Beautiful flowers😊

Manually curated by @minnowvotes

Plantain is starting to pop here too. My yard is full of them and dandelions, which I harvest regularly.

Our elderflowers aren't blooming yet, but when they do, we have elderberry bushes everywhere around us. I can't wait to harvest them.

I'm glad to see you seem have found your groove. Getting out of the inlaws and on your own is exactly what you needed.

Are you in a better location for exploring as well?

Somerset is incredible on the whole but the canal does add another dimension, like cycling and swimming. It's not so far from my in laws. A million things to explore in a 3 hr drive radius.

Plantain is absolutely my plant of the year. I marvel at its effectiveness and that most people pass over it as a useless weed!

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The bistort flowers are LOVELY! Elegant, unusual and healing as well - my kinda flower. 😍

It's lovely that you have so much at your fingertips that is wild, and edible. WE do here too, but it's a serious job to find out the colloquial name i the local dialect, then find out its proper Thai name and from there work towards an English language plant identification for a botanical name. I'm working on a post but we'll see.... LOL

Appreciating your much calmer self sounds and feels so very much happier. Maybe THIS is the journey both your souls needed the most?

We are definitely settled with the smaller circles we are walking. They say a body can walk thousands of miles in search of the divine, but it is always much closer to home.

How great is the flower! We met a couple 90 if they were a day. She identified it, but we knew it was a medieval pot herb. Shared knowledge two metres apart!

You sure it was exactly 2 meters apart? 😆

So glad you're able to make the most of your enforced stay over here :) Somerset is a stunning county, full of magic, mystery, history, beauty, and of course wild food! :) We've been collecting Dandelions, nettles, dead-nettles, and wild garlic, but will soon cast our net a little wider to explore the abundance of natures larder. Thank you for the post.

No worries! Hey wanted to take you up on that offer of letting us know about walking in Devon. We are coming down to Dartmoor for day next week. Might try a few trips down there as it's not so far away.

No worries .. have you been to the Quantock Hills or Exmoor? .. probably closer to you, and some stunning woodlands/moorlands. :)

@riverflows this might be my absolute favorite of anything I have read by you to date.
Thank you for bringing me across the pond foraging with you for a moment. I can smell the wood smoke, I can see the bistort blooms blowing in the breeze, I can feel the call of my ancestors in my very bones as you walk upon the Avon.
And really, you had me at In the cave of the boat we are living in...

Oh what a lovely compliment for a post I kinda rushed!!!! Xxx Hugs x

Ahh, see, magic works best for me in the moment. The more stream of consciousness, the better.
There's something to be said for just letting it flow...every pun intended @riverflows <3