Advice, Recipes and Foraging Ideas to Stay Well

Advice from Fiona Taylor, Horley’s Respected Herbalist on wellbeing, foraging opportunities and recipes for these difficult times.

Another 3 weeks of lockdown and that is just for the non-vulnerable!

The shadow of Covid-19 hangs over all of us but what we will remember is not our dark thoughts and anxiety, it is how we as individuals and as a community deal with the challenge, resilience is not about avoiding bad situations it is about how we face them.

The gardens of Horley always beautiful will now be pristine, our community network is up and doing a fantastic job, so how about looking to nature in our gardens and on our walks for mental, emotional and physical support?

Many of you will have come on herb walks with me, now is the time to put some of that knowledge into action. Spring has arrived and with it the opportunity to incorporate many wild or garden plants into our diets to aid both our mental and emotional wellbeing and our immune systems.

I am sure you all know what a good diet is but this from Tysoe and Kineton surgery explains why.

With all this fuss and handwashing I am just Amazed no one has mentioned supporting our human IMMUNE SYSTEMS! These use white blood cells to protect you from, but if nec. to clear up infection and aid recovery. The Immune System need good nutrition to function. Plenty of fresh food, steam broccoli 🥦with a tomato🍅 and its almost anti-cancer too! Eggs good, fish brilliant. (Cod liver oil if it’s too difficult to get that fresh fish.)

Also, your body loves to take a walk, 🌞. Come on U know all this. … Seafront, the park, woods, sport? In Nature, In your wheelchair too? ~ 20 mins minimum outside for your daily dose of Vitamin D for Daylight.

  • Keep your Immune System healthy and working to protect you by eating well. Plenty of fresh fruit and veg. 🍊🍋🍌🍍🥑
  • Drink plenty of water, a glass half an hour before meals, wonderful.
  • Avoid over processed food such as white flour products and white sugar.
  • Stay healthy and warm and take a smile out🙂 with you to pass on
  • Lots of good sleep to you that are ill. 🤒

Please note none of the advice given is intended to be a substitute for seeking advice or treatment from your doctor.

If anyone would like specific advice or a simple medicine, please email or ring me. I will not charge for consultations and will only charge cost for any herbs during the Corona pandemic.

01295 738609

I aim to discuss one or two plants or group of plants or spices at a time with some recipes for you to try.

One of the best ways to boost your immune system is to spend time outside where you will be exposed to beneficial bacteria, sunshine for vitamin D and the peace of nature which has been shown to help relax us. See here for more information on nature and mental health.

While you are walking you can forage for wild greens which are just coming up now. Only take what you will use and avoid picking too near the road or the base of trees that look inviting to dogs!

Make sure you know exactly what you are picking, there are several plant identification apps around if you need one, if in doubt do not pick it.

The plants to look out for right now are Nettle and Cleavers.


Nettle really needs no introduction, use gloves to pick the tender new shoots which can be cooked like spinach or as I do add to cabbage, broccoli or any other greens. You can also put nettles in just about any dish that takes greens like spinach or kale.

Nettle Lasagne from Learning

What you will need

  • A jar of bolognaise sauce Or make your own sauce
  • 1lb mince beef (optional)
  • 16 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 package of 12 no pre-cook lasagne sheets
  • 12 cups fresh nettle
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Gently fry the onion in the olive oil then add the mince and garlic and tomato sauce, simmer for 10 mins or until the mince is cooked.

Wearing gloves cop up the nettles and add to the mince, cook until they are wilted.

Combine the two cheeses in a medium bowl, stirring until well-mixed.

Assembling the lasagne:

  • Layer meat, cheese and lasagne sheets finishing with a layer of cheese sauce.
  • Cover the lasagne with foil and bake in 375°F oven for 45 minutes. You can remove the foil for the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time if you like a crunchier top.
  • Remove from oven – let sit about 15 minutes and then enjoy your nettle lasagne with a big fresh salad!

There are plenty of nettle recipes on the internet from nettle soup to nettle pesto, share your favourite.

Nettle tea:

Put a handful of fresh nettles into a cafetiere pour on boiling water, cover and let it steep0 for 5-15 mins. Plunge and enjoy. You can add any other herbal tea to it, Chamomile or Lemon balm are nice, Sliced lemon (the peel is high in antioxidants) and honey (raw if possible).

If like me, you prefer your herbal brews cold just wait a while for it to cool.

Medicinally nettle is used as a blood tonic, it is very high in vitamin C and minerals including iron and calcium. It has an antihistamine effect and can help seasonal allergies. It stimulates circulation and can help to lower blood pressure. It strengthens natural resistance to infection. It has been shown in one trial to contain a lectin which prevents virus replication. See here.

I am not suggesting that drinking nettle tea will cure or prevent Covid-19 but it is certainly good for us!


Cleavers was once used as a potherb. It was a useful plant in Medieval kitchens because it could be picked in frost or snow. The plant’s hook-like bristles soften when boiled. Its chopped leaves and stem can be made into soups and stews. The tender shoots can be boiled and buttered as a vegetable. (

Medicinally it is used to improve and support the lymphatic system and to promote elimination through the kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin. It is high in flavonoids which are give colour to fruits and vegetables and are needed for our immune system.

It has a long tradition as a spring tonic herb.

It can be added in small amounts to salads. Pick the fresh young tops and chop up well.

Cleavers Pesto

Cleavers makes a surprisingly delicious pesto!  You can make a big batch and freeze it in ice cube trays then transfer to a Ziplock bag when frozen. Simply substitute the cleavers for all or some of the basil in your favourite pesto recipe or try this one.


  • 2 cups fresh cleavers (stems and leaves,) packed
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil
  • pinch of sea salt


In a food processor, process the cleavers, garlic, nuts, and sea salt until coarsely chopped. Add olive oil and pulse until smooth.

Serve immediately or store in a sealed container or glass jar in the refrigerator.

Keep safe and happy foraging everyone 😀

Fiona Taylor, Medical Herbalist