Thursday, 7 April 2011

Urban Foraging, Wild Greens and More

Who dosnt like getting stuff for free! Urban Foraging is a great term that just means getting stuff for free and either eating it or reusing it.  I am a great believer in recycling also.  Recycling and Urban foraging are really quite similar.  In my other life, in my native country I used to seperate my plastics from the paper and deposit in the appropriate bins.  I bought a paper making kit to make my own paper from used envelopes etc then moved into selling that product at the local markets.  I grew my own veggies and used discarded car tyres to grow herbs in.  Used an old tractor tyre for a sandpit for my kids.  Used old carpet to kill weeds. Harvested fruit off trees in parks, picked up unwanted furniture off the side of the road and used it. Gone to recyling depots to get craft supplies for my kids and had many more urban foraging/recycling adventures.

Since coming to Turkey I have found out the value of weeds, learnt how to identify them cook them and even know the best places to buy cultivated and source out wild ones if necessary. I have gone to castles and picked capers and caper berries, gone to an ancient city and picked pepper corns off  huge pepper trees, visited the local park and got my not so willing husband to pick a few kilos of beautiful black figs which I then turned into fig jam. Watched my son harvest mussels off the pier for the locals, harvested olives out of a very old garden, picked stinging nettles, threaded orange blossom chains and given them to the old ladies, stayed in an old orchard and picked chamomiles from the beautiful carpet that comes in the spring, gotten the seeds from red poppies to use as a mild pain killer plus many more.  My lounge at the moment came off someones roof after they used it for the summer, my dining table and wall cabinets were free after being discarded and various other bits and pieces have all been foraged.

My favorite weed here has to be the stinging nettle.  It tastes fantastic, can be found if you know where to look or bought very cheaply at the local bazaars.  It also has a wealth of health benefits, good for your hair and they say if drunk everyday will help you overcome cancer and loose weight. I have dried some and will be making a shampoo bar very soon with that.  In regards to eating it the locals seem to cook it with onion and tomato paste and use it as a filling for böreks(filled savory pastries)To take the sting out of it for cooking all you have to do is give it a good shake(yes it does work) and when you cook it the sting goes so there is no problem.

This was bought from the local bazaar
500gr stinging nettle
2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
chili powder

You need to give it a good wash first and if the stems are fairly woody using kitchen gloves take the leaves off the tough stems.  If it is younger you can just cut the stems up with the leaves. Chop it up.

Fry the onion in a pan until clear then add in the nettle and sautee for about 5 minutes.  Add in your salt and chili then taste.  İf you need to add more salt, add now.  Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another minute.

You could aslo add in about a cup of fetta cheese for a variation.

This filling can be used for any börek from filo pastry triangles to a layered pastry in a baking dish.


  1. I've heard of nettles being eaten before. I'd like to give them a try too. My latest foraging in Canberra was picking about 4kgs of blackberries growing wild near my work. They were worth every scratch! I also have my eye on an olive tree in my street where the owners just let the olives rot on the ground. What surprises me is that after a month or two, the parrots will eat them non-stop. Perhaps the bitterness has mellowed by then?

  2. I've seen some of these "odd" greens at the pazar but haven't known what to do with them. And I've seen several Turkish women foraging for greens in the Belgrade Forest on the weekends. I'll have to try them in a recipe sometime. Thanks for the soup idea!