Making horta

Cooking Horta Vrasta in Basque Country

Basque County is beautiful, sunny and picturesque even in winter. We are staying near an ancient farmhouse close to the town of Ea, sharing the space with a wonderful family. They are renovating the house and surrounding lands and invited us to stay and assemble a yurt with them. As well as the house and the yurt, there is lots of green space and opportunities to forage and find ingredients for Horta vrasta,  a dish I have been eager to try out.

Historical Basque Country architecture

I have been very fortunate and participated in a lot of things I am passionate about during my stay. Mainly this has meant learning more about foraging and cooking. Kitchen facilities are limited in the van so it has been great to spend a bit of time with a proper oven and stove-top practicing new recipes!

I made a few batches of horta vrastaHorta vrasta (commonly shortened to horta) means ‘cooked grasses’ and refers to a wide variety of foraged greens. Traditionally, the varieties you use are dependant what is growing in the fields locally. Commonly purslane, nettles and mustard greens but also the more recognisable water cress, silverbeet and spinach can make an appearance in the dish. I made my horta vrasta from daffodil, lamb’s lettuce and stinging nettles, all growing wild and locally on the farm.

Stinging nettles foraging for cooked greens Horta Vragos

My dinner is in here if I can find it!


Stinging nettles have a lot of iron in them after some cooking, if you are prepared to spend a bit of time working around their stings. This time of year in Basque Country, only take the top few centimetres of nettle growth, the new shoots and the smaller leaves. This is because the older growth will have a bitter, gross taste. I use a sharp pair of scissors and a rubber gauntlet-style glove to pick off the best leaves and shoots.

FORAGING Basque Country, chives, nettles, dandelions, lambs lettuce

Clockwise from top; dandelion and lamb’s lettuce, stinging nettles, chives

Tips for picking dandelions; as with the stinging nettles, I only picked the newer leaves this time of year, plucking leaves shorter than my hand out from the centre of the dandelion plant. I could only find a small amount of lamb’s lettuce, and pinched the tops off the plants I did find to add to the greens. I also found a few chives and threw them in one of the batches.

My horta vrasta recipe; (serves 4-5)


Big bunch of greens; I use two canvas bags full of nettles and dandelions

4 tbsp olive oil

One lemon

Salt and pepper

Prepare the nettles, wash the greens well.

Get two litres of water on the boil, add two teaspoons of salt and the greens. Cook for 15-20 minutes.

Strain and ice the greens to bring the temperature down so you can immediately refrigerate.

Strain the greens a second time and squeeze the juice out further with your hands.

Mix the oil with the greens, cover and chill in the fridge for a few hours. Just before serving, squeeze the juice of half the lemon onto the greens and stir in. Serve with the other half of the lemon, and salt and pepper to taste.

Delicious, healthy, local, fresh, free! Horta is a simple side that goes with fish, quiche, fried mushrooms, potato pancakes…takes a bit of planning to make in time for the main meal but you can also make a large batch to eat for leftovers the following day. Lots of options for this versatile and nutritious side dish!

About kellymarietheartist

I am an artist who, up until recently, was living and exhibiting within Toowoomba and the greater Granite Belt district. I have since packed up and left Australia, and am currently living and working in England. My work engages the craft involved in handmaking within a contemporary art context. I am drawn to the physicality of repetitive textile processes, and this is transcribed though the tactile quality of my forms. In particular, processes such as crochet, sewing and rug making serve as a proxy for growth within my personal environment. Many of my works imitate situations in nature, and they form organically as I create each individual piece, each addition both a continuation and re-enforcement of its predecessors. I enjoy using recycled materials for many of my works. Using crochet and other textile techniques to do this is an important part of my work as it celebrates a tradition of craft that has historically been relegated to 'women's work', with all the negative connotations that entails.
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4 Responses to Making horta

  1. Pingback: Finding food in Seville | kellymariemcewan

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