I’ve just been having a look through some old photos. It’s amazing how many I have kept over the years, though they are a random, unsorted and generally useless bunch of images.
The one I used as a “featured image” is one of my favourites. When you consider how early a crocus blooms, it’s unusual to photograph a butterfly on one. Strangely, it was very active, despite the time of year, and flew off after I’d managed to get just two shots. That is typical butterfly behaviour.
MY relationship with butterflies started when I was very young – it was the summer before my sister was born, which would make me just over two years old. In those days they were as big as my hand. Like so many other things, they became less impressive as I grew older. About eight years later, I became interested in them again, learnt more about them and pursued them with a net. It was not my finest hour but times were different then. After that, I didn’t pay them more than a passing interest until we started the Quercus project on the farm. Butterflies are easier to observe and photograph when you have a group of people behind you.
Nettle soup, as you may guess from the title, is also one of my favourites. I haven’t made it for a few years but, having cleared the back fence, I now have a thriving nettle bed. This promises a good harvest, and a good food source for butterflies. I will have to manage it properly, as we don’t want masses of nettles when we com to sell the house, but I’m looking forward to several years of butterflies and nettle soup. Red admiral, peacock, small tortoiseshell and comma caterpillars all eat nettles. I’ve never seen a comma in the garden, but I have seen the other three so we could be on for a good year.
Nettle Soup is also, sometimes misleadingly, the name given to the solution that develops if you steep nettles in water .It’s also known as nettle tea. You can also put nettles in a cup, pour boiling water on them and drink them like a tea.
There are many recipes on the internet for nettle soup (some more complicated than others) and nearly as many for the fertiliser. have a poke round and see what you can find. Fertiliser is easy – let nettles rot in water. Compost the nettles and dilute the resulting liquid a the rate of about 10:1 to water on a s a plant food. Warning: it may be a bit smelly. I’ve never been bothered by it but some people do bang on about it in their recipes.
My personal favourite recipe for the green (edible) soup is very simple – just onions, nettles, stock and a blender, as I recall – no potatoes, no rice. And definitely no carrot, celery or cream. One recipe even tells you that you can often find bunches of nettles on Farmers’ Markets in spring.
Buy nettles? Words fail me…