CulturallyOurs Summer Foraging Ideas From Russia

Summer Foraging And Harvesting From Russia

CulturallyOurs Summer Foraging Ideas From Russia

Summer foraging and harvesting recipes from Russia.

Foraging has always been a tradition of people all over the world for generations. Mother Nature has providing for people since millennia in many different ways from foods to medicinal plants to timber and everything else in between. One of the best ways to experience nature is to partake in all her bounty. In nearly every country around the world, people and communities turn to nature to provide different elements for their different needs. Foraging for food has always been popular among people with nearly every season providing something or the other that can be foraged and harvested for human consumption.

Today Maria Dokshina, a chef and food blogger from Russia, shares foraging tips and recipes from the Russian countryside that she learnt from her grandparents.CulturallyOurs Summer Foraging Recipes From RussiaFrom Maria,

No matter what our current perception of foraging might be, the true foragers from the past, in most cases, did not have the luxury of going to the store and getting enough produce to feed themselves. From there, an obvious question arose – where else could they find more foods and preserve them to survive?CulturallyOurs Summer Foraging Recipes From RussiaI was lucky enough to know these people as my own grandparents and to experience the process of forest foraging with them as a five year old child. The days when we would go to pick fresh berries and mushrooms in middle summer and early autumn were so full of curiosity, magic and not knowing what we will find and bring home – that they quickly became my favorites among the whole season of living in the countryside. This season is about May to September for people living in the Western part of Russia close to Finland, where our summer house was located.

Even though the most abundant time for forest foragers is autumn if you are looking for mushrooms, we did visit this mysterious majestic place during warmer months as well. At the beginning of June, my grandfather Vladimir and my grandmother Vera would bring me with them to harvest the newly grown soft and fresh tips of the spruce tree that are really high in vitamin C at this time, so they encouraged me to snack on them as we went deeper into the forest. There they could find some herbs, some birch bark from fallen trees to start a fire in the furnace at the house, some early mushrooms, like russula, if two conditions have combined in nature the day before – the rain and the sun right afterward. When the sun is shining and the rain is showering at the same time we call this ‘the Mushroom rain’.CulturallyOurs Summer Foraging Recipes From RussiaMushroom foraging is truly is a huge trend in Russia even these days. If you would come to visit Saint-Petersburg in September-October, and decided to go on a one-day-trip to Novgorod-the-Great for instance, you would see people standing on the side of the roads of the villages, that you would inevitably pass by, with baskets full of porcini mushrooms, brown cup boletuses, chanterelles, smaller buckets of raspberries, forest blackberries, black, white and red currants, some garden-grown black and green plums, and of course apples… No other time of the year holds so many nature’s gifts and such abundance. However, what and when to pick is sacred and potentially life-saving knowledge, as there are hundreds of poisonous plants in nature.

My grandfather’s story is one of a kind in regards to surviving on forest gifts. As a 4-year-old boy, he was evacuated with his younger brother out of Leningrad (now Saint-Petersburg) in 1941, just the day before their house was bombed to the ground. He was sent to Russian Far East, to Askold – the island in Peter the Great Bay of the Sea of Japan in 50 km south-east of Vladivostok city. There, in a military unit, the sister of his father lived among other soldier’s wives and children. The unit was surrounded by lush mostly wild nature and due to the current status of war at this moment in time, not many supplies could be found in food stores. Guided by older children Vladimir and his brother learned how to forage many gifts of nature, including nettles, ground elder, wild leek, birch juice, spruce tips and countless other names that sound so foreign to the modern people’s ears.

What these stories are teaching us is that our current diet variety is might, perhaps, be not so varied and that Earth’s gifts are not ending on spinach and Romain salad. Knowing how to identify even a handful of edible weeds and forest plants can give us an opportunity to reduce our food costs, but aslo to infuse our diets with new tastes, aromas, and countless health benefits, all clean from processing and free of packaging.CulturallyOurs Summer Foraging Recipes From RussiaHere are a few ideas on what russians are harvesting and foraging during the early summer to add to their meals or their natural medicine cabinets. Most of these recipes are a part of Russian traditional cuisine and preparations.

#1 Foraged Lilac Tincture Recipe

Lilacs are a sign of spring and summer. In many places around the world they grow in the wild and are perfect for foraging. They have many medicinal purposes as well as are edible. But it is important to only use lilacs that are free of any pesticides or chemicals so pay attention to where you forage them. It is said that lilac tincture massaged on the skin in joint areas can help with reducing arthritis progression or massaged on the skin of the neck in fighting a cough and other throat related diseases.

It is important to know that this tincture recipe is applicable only for external use.CulturallyOurs Summer Foraging Recipes From Russia

  1. Fill a 0.5L clean bottle with lilac flowers.
  2. Fill the rest of the space in a bottle with vodka.
  3. Close the plug/lid and put in a dark cool place for 3 weeks, then strain and use it when needed.

#2 Foraged Catnip, Mint & Black Currant Leaves Tea Recipe

Leaves of these plants have calming properties for the nervous system without providing any side-effects that around-the-corner antistress drugs can give. The overnight infusion of these leaves is a nutritious substitute for your bedtime cup of tea.CulturallyOurs Summer Foraging Recipes From RussiaThe leaves can be first dried completely and stored in a jar or used straight from the bushes.CulturallyOurs Summer Foraging Recipes From RussiaA handful of fresh mixed leaves is enough to infuse 2 cups of hot water. If dried – use 1-2 tablespoons to the same amount of water.

#3 Foraged Nettle & Ground Elder Soup Recipe

Harvesting nettle is only safe before its flowering season. While wearing gloves pick about 10-15 cm from the top of big plants or use the newly grown ones.

Stinging nettle is a highly nutritious plant and preparing soup with it is an old Russian tradition that is still popular seasonally throughout villages that have access to nature goods. Ground elder has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-rheumatic health properties. But be sure to identify it from the dangerously poisonous members of this family.CulturallyOurs Summer Foraging Recipes From Russia

This recipe will make 5-6 portions of soup.

  1. In a medium pot fry 1 finely chopped yellow onion on a few tablespoons of sunflower oil until golden brown for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add roughly chopped 12 baby potatoes into the pot and fry them for 5-10 more minutes.
  3. Add 1.5 L of boiling vegetable stock (may use 1 bouillon cube for this) into the pot.
  4. Carefully put a generous handful of stinging nettle leaves in a colander and pour hot water over for 30 seconds making sure that all leaves have shrunk and darkened – it won’t sting anymore. Chop roughly and add to the pot. 1 handful of ground elder leaves just have to be cleaned and chopped before added to the pot.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, cover the lid and simmer for 30 minutes until potatoes are soft.
  6. Top with a spoon of sour cream and a halved boiled egg in each serving – the most traditional way of enjoying this soup!

#4 Foraged Spruce Lemonade Recipe

I haven’t seen my grandparents doing this type of thing with spruce tips ever, but this is highly inspired by my grandfather’s love for these light green powerhouses of vitamins and unique spruce tree flavor.CulturallyOurs Summer Foraging Recipes From RussiaCulturallyOurs Summer Foraging Recipes From RussiaThe recipe makes 2 x 200ml glasses of this lemonade.

  1. Put 1 cup of young spruce tips in a blender jar along with 3 cups of water and 6 tsp of sugar.
  2. Blend for 1 minute, then strain through a nut-milk bag or 4 layered cheese-cloth.
  3. Add ice cubes to taste.

#5 Foraged Chives Flowers Cream Cheese

This recipe is hard to consider a recipe, really, as I only ask you to pick a handful of chives flowers, cut the stem off and mix tiny flowers into your favorite cream cheese.

However the unique mild flowery and onion taste these fancy purple flowers bring to cream cheese (be it dairy or plant-based) is worth trying out through the short season of chives flowering. You might want to start growing these on your backyard and wait patiently every year to add these flowers, that you probably didn’t consider as edible before, into all your salsas, salads, or even on pasta alfredo.CulturallyOurs Summer Foraging Recipes From RussiaWhen served on crispy bread toast with a generous splash of oil and a few cracks of black pepper, this herbed cheese will make your dinner unexpectedly delightful!

These few recipes are only a glimpse of what Russian traditions of foraging and preserving have to offer. I admit, however, that nowadays with more people leaving the countryside and small towns to build a life in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, it feels that it is Russian foraging knowledge itself needs a preservation. With this knowledge comes a great power and an important connection to nature that makes us humans stronger, healthier and less vulnerable to environmental changes. While these recipes are still remembered by older folks in Russia, or in any other country of the world, it is our job today to ask and learn more from them, so that we can live a more abundant life now and offer a bigger picture to the future generations tomorrow.

{Words and images by Maria Dokshina; Website: Planty_; Instagram: @planty_ }

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