Wood Avens Syrup
The aromatic roots of a humble garden weed are used to give this syrup a warming clove-like flavour. Some find cloves a little strident and medicinal, but wood avens is subtler and more complex, with hints of cinnamon, ginger and star anise. Use the amber syrup in drinks, drizzled on your morning porridge or pancakes, over ice cream, or in mulled wine.
When hunting for wood avens (don’t forget your own garden), look for medium to large plants, which will have bigger, more flavoursome roots.
- About 100g wood avens roots (weighed with leaves and soil removed)
- 250ml cold water
- 500g caster sugar
- First, clean the wood avens roots. The best way to remove excess soil and detritus is to use the jet attachment on a garden hose (collect the water for garden watering, or simply direct the spray onto your flower beds or veg plot). Work your fingers through the roots to tease out any stubborn earth, stones and twigs. The thicker roots just below the leaves are dark in colour, which can make it hard to tell if you have washed all of the soil away – so put the roots into a bucket, bowl or sinkful of water and let them soak for a bit, before giving the roots a good scrub with a nailbrush or washing up brush. Rinse well, until the water runs clear. Break up any bulkier roots into smaller pieces.
- Put the water and sugar into a medium sized pan and set over a high heat. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar, and bring the mixture up to the boil. As soon as the water starts to bubble, add the cleaned wood avens roots, pushing them down to ensure they are submerged. Simmer the roots in the sugar syrup for 15 minutes.
- Let the roots and syrup cool for 5 minutes. Using tongs, lift out the roots and put them into a sterilised 750ml jar (or several smaller ones). Pour in the syrup, making sure the roots are submerged once more, then seal the jar. Remember to make sure that the rim of the jar is cleaned of syrup before sealing – if left, it will act as a glue and make the jar very hard to open again.
- Let the roots steep in the syrup for two weeks, then strain the liquid through a fine seive into a sterilised 500ml jar or bottle. The syrup should keep for up to six months – though it will probably be gone much sooner than that!
Recipe by Wild Food UK; development and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK