March 2, 2023

Hazel Catkins

I used to forage in my late teens to supplement my food but then my life improved and work and home took over and I rarely had time to forage, except for brambles.  I didn’t need to and so got out of the habit.  Money has been short since I retired and so I have used foraging to supplement my diet and add nutrition.  Unfortunately I have forgotten most of what I had learned as a teenager and so I try to learn a new plant to forage every month.  When I tried to learn a lot all at once I was overwhelmed and this old brain could not retain the knowledge.

I learned the other day that you can eat Hazel catkins, and that they are good for you. I keep seeing them everywhere on my walks at the moment (February/March). They hang down looking like fragile lamb’s tails, and are the colour of bananas when mature. They are quite soft and are about 3 to 4 inches long and hang in clusters of up to 3. They taste bitter if eaten raw, unfortunately, and the texture has been likened to sawdust, but if dried they are good to put into things like flap jack which disguises the taste. Apparently, they were used to make flour in some countries in the 19th century. They also make a reasonable tea.

They do contain pollen, though as they are actually the male flowers and so people with allergies are probably best staying away from eating them.  You might be asking yourself why I am mentioning them if they taste so bad. The point of eating them is that they help stop colds and are full of protein, minerals and vitamins. Hazel catkins are also anti-inflammatory and are good for detoxifying the body.

I am going to make some flap jack next week and try them. I have a setting on my air fryer that dehydrates, but it could be done in an oven on a low setting, or in a dehydrator.  I usually air dry most things but there is no point with catkins as they are pollen and you will just have a mess as the pollen releases.  I have seen that some people collect the pollen and roll energy bites or chocolate balls in it, but I am trying to stay away from chocolate at the moment.

Lots of other trees like Birch and Alder also have catkins which are edible but the latter are longer and darker and look a bit more knobbly.  As with all foraging, I am not an expert and I am not giving any medical advice.  I just enjoy trying to make the most of nature and all the resources that we have for free.  Please be careful when eating any wild plant and make sure that you have identified it properly, or go foraging with an expert.

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  1. Sara March 2, 2023 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Might give this a wee try , there are such a lot round my way at the moment

    • ToniG March 3, 2023 at 1:31 pm - Reply

      I am making some flap jack this week end to put some in. Anything for some free nutrition!

  2. Simon Faulkner February 18, 2024 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    They can indeed be a bit bitter, that said the pollen can be used as a dusting on pastries and adds a sweet tang, a tasty savoury snack involves dipping them in batter and frying, oddly this is actually a good snack for someone who is suffering from a cold, used to make a tea and adding Greater Plantain (plantago major) also is medicinal, to sweeten either use a spoonful of honey (use a wooden spoon not a metal one) or if you’re lucky enough use warmed Birch sap instead of water.

    • ToniG February 21, 2024 at 10:00 am - Reply

      That is really good to know. Thanks for sharing your great knowledge. I appreciate it

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