Reed mace bread, conker bread, and Lords and Ladies bread

The flour you get from these sources is mostly starch. There are several different possible methods of processing.

For reedmace, wash rhizome, use fingers to remove outer spongy casing, and pound the stringy core in a bowl with water or chop finely and blitz in a food processor. Strain out fibres. Allow starch to settle in water. Strain off water and dry starch at low heat. Grind to fine powder before use.

Conkers or Horse Chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) are bloody hard to shell fresh or dried. I prefer to stamp on fresh ones, remove as much shell as possible, then dry and grind the rest before sieving out remaining shell and moving on to the next crucial stage. Lords and Ladies tubers (Arum maculatum) dug in February or (better) June/July (when the plant’s berries are red and fully ripe) just need to be scrubbed clean.

The next stage is identical for Arum and Aesculus; for the former it’s required to remove the raphids or microscopic oxalate crystals, for the later to remove the saponin complex.

Blend no more than 2 kg at a time of plant material with water in a liquidizer to form a watery milk-like liquid. Pour into a large 20 litre capacity plastic container. Top up with cold water, stir up contents and leave for a few hours for the starch to settle. Siphon off the water and mix in fresh water. Siphon and repeat process 10 times in total. Finally, use a silk cloth to squeeze out remaining water and dry on low heat before grinding to fine powder


  • 400-425g wild flour (one of above or a mixture)– briefly warmed in a low oven
  • 75-100g gluten flour
  • 4 dessert spns olive oil
  • 1 tspn sprinkle-in dried yeast
  • water – warm


  1. In a bowl thoroughly mix together all dry ingredients, add sufficient water to form a firm dough.
  2. Better that it’s sticky rather than too dry.
  3. Knead well on a flat surface for 10 minutes.
  4. Place in a deep bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place (to prove) until increased in volume by at least half.
  5. Knead again for 5 minutes.
  6. Shape and place in baking tin covered with a damp cloth until doubled in sized if possible – usually it doesn’t rise that much.
  7. You can cover it with a lightly oiled piece of cling film whilst proving instead of a damp cloth.
  8. Bake at 200°C for 25-30 mins (fan oven).
  9. Cool on a wire rack.

100g gluten will produce a lighter loaf.

The method is the same as for the sweet chestnut bread although the dough needs to be a little wetter or the finished loaf will be very dry, also the addition of oil prevents a dry finish and gives a lovely crumpet flavour. Because it’s mainly starch being used here there’s a bit of non-Newtonian fluid weirdness going on (think mixing custard powder) but don’t worry. The dough will feel wet even when firm and move about like it’s alive but the 200°C oven soon puts an end to that.
All the flours mentioned above mixed with 10-20% gluten are also excellent for making bannock breads – savoury or sweet, with milk powder, sugar, honey or dried fruits in the latter, and flat breads as well: phulkas (small and thin) and chapattis (larger and thicker). For these just add a little salt and water. Knead for 10 mins, cover with damp cloth and rest for 30 mins before kneading for another 5 mins. Divide dough into balls, roll out into thin circles and cook on both sides for a few minutes on a lightly oiled hot griddle or frying pan. Less gluten and more water can give fairly decent pancakes without needing egg. I tried that with acorn flour. Of course, too, whether making raised or flat breads you can use – in whole or in part- nut flour or more conventional flours such as rice, rye, gram, and potato flour. Don’t think though that you can mix gluten with cold mashed potato or baked reedmace rhizomes to make a loaf. Great if you could, but it doesn’t work, I know from bitter experience. Initially they rise very well but then collapse in a saggy and soggy heap!

One or two important words of caution to you: I don’t know anybody other than myself who has eaten substantial amounts of Conker or Arum extract as described here. Go easy at first to check for personal sensitivity. Indeed, it should go without saying that those with a known gluten intolerance should avoid all the recipes mentioned here.



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