Tall nettles cover up, as they have done
These many springs, the rusty harrow, the plough
Long worn out, and the roller made of stone:
Only the elm butt tops the nettles now.
This corner of the farmyard I like most:
As well as any bloom upon a flower
I like the dust on the nettles, never lost
Except to prove the sweetness of a shower.
It sometimes seems that there’s only a handful of people who actually like nettles, and I only like them because I can threaten people with nettle soup when they visit the farm.
Since I started cooking with nettles they have even ruined Edward Thomas’s poem for me – I don’t want TALL nettles, I want small tender ones.
My crop has been under threat for the last two weeks. Last week our Community Payback team, who are usually not industrious enough to do too much damage, were let loose with a strimmer. The nettle patch in the allotment (which I keep for butterfly food despite the folly of breeding butterflies next to brassicas) was comprehensively flattened and they also managed to trim a couple of inches off the tops of last year’s fig cuttings.
I would actually like to take the time to give them some horticultural training but the sort of questions they asked last time we tried it indicate that they will only use the knowledge to get into more trouble, if you know what I mean.
The second Great Destruction occurred yesterday when the farmer, in pursuit of a tidy farm for Open Farm Sunday, started cutting grass. Next thing I knew there was the noise of a mower behind the polytunnels and the nettles I’d been carefully concealing from view (I thought) lay dead. I’m tempted to get lyrical about them, brought low in their prime by man and stinking machine, but what is done is done. They are in the compost heap now. “Dead, dead, and never called me mother!” as they say. I had to look that up because although I knew the phrase I didn’t know where it came from.
Plan B is now in action – nettle soup on Tuesday will be made from my remaining plants – picked now and blanched in advance before any more destruction occurs, and the Open Farm Sunday soup samples will be made in advance from my nettles at home.
Did I mention Open Farm Sunday – 7th June? We’ll be in the Education Tent.