Tag Archives: nettle soup

Butterflies and Nettle Soup

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

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…

 

Look What Julia Brought Home

Just a short post to show you what Julia bought on her way back from work. Isn’t it great? It’s heart-shaped and full of cheese which, I think, makes it the world’s greatest Valentine’s Day present.

She also brought back some organic stoneground spelt flour from her trip to Green’s Mill. I’m not so keen on that. Spelt has a tendency to be disappointing, as it is not as easy to work with as wheat, and because I’m quite heavy-handed. That, of course, is another problem. I’ve given up baking because the kneading causes painful hands so I’m going to have to dig the breadmaker out from under a pile of kitchen junk.

I was actually looking at bread-making mixes in the supermarket last night as I’m feeling the urge to bake. Last night I managed to resist the feeling, but now I’m cornered.

It seems strange that only a couple of years ago we were baking twice a week or more on the farm. We also made nettle soup in the spring, which I haven’t done for the last couple of years. I’m thinking I may have a go at nettle soup again, and plant more herbs at home. Our rosemary grows well, but we could do with a bit of variety.

I’ll leave you with another picture of the cheese – taken with a flash this time. It doesn’t really make it look any better, but it allows me to use two virtually identical pictures. I am very lazy, and it’s hard to make a bag of flour look interesting.

The best ever Valentine Present again

The best ever Valentine Present again.

Nettle Preservation Society

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.

Edward Thomas

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fortunately I have secret caches of nettles…

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.

 

 

 

It seems like progress

Now that it’s settled we’ve edged the keyhole bed (well almost…), planted it and watered it.

As you will see from the photograph and the “well almost…” my calculation of the circumference based on 2 pi r is slightly at fault. I think it’s the radius that’s at fault rather than the calculation but it’s a bit annoying and calls for another trip to the Poundshop tomorrow morning. Once that’s in place we can start adding more soil. All we need to do is find the soil – it seems a bit of a cheat to buy more when we’re trying to be sustainable but you can’t grow veg in poor soil and principles. We’ll be talking about that tonight I suspect.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As for the watering, we’ve transplanted some veg from other places so it looks like it’s established and they needed quite a lot of water to help them get over the shock. If only I’d known it was going to rain this evening I wouldn’t have carried quite as many cans. 

We’ve even started to refill the compost heap.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The trench left from fitting the biomass heating system to the farm cottages (which has been the subject of some discontent over the last two months) is now filled and the equipment has also been used to put tarmac down at the back of the centre so we don’t look like a building site any more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All in all it’s looking like progress, and when you add the weeding and tidying we’ve also done today, and the fact that I’ve been able to tick eleven jobs off my office list I’m going home tired but happy. I’ve also taken a booking for a cookery group and agreed the catering for a meeting this weekend – eight people, one requiring gluten free sandwiches, and all keen to try nettle soup!

Finally, I saw my first swallow of the year this morning and as we left the allotment tonight a female kestrel circled round us at head height. Where else can you get that sort of job satisfaction?