Tag Archives: nettles

On the second day

On the second day God created the sky: on my second day I supervised the making of 31 pizzas.

It’s quite clear from this that I’m slacking. On the other hand I do have arthritis, varicose veins and a tendency to need the toilet more than average, even for a man of my age. I’m well past my peak, and on a rapidly increasing downward slope which, like Gray’s paths of glory, lead but to the grave. Fortunately this middle-aged man bladder problem is cancelled out by standing with my back two feet away from four fan ovens blasting out air at 200 degrees C. It’s difficult to find any spare moisture when you are being desiccated.

But manage, I did, and the evidence was clear to see as splashes of sweat spotted the floor. I paint such a lovely picture of kitchen life don’t I?

By the end of the day I was reduced to opening the fridge door and standing next to it.

Here are some pictures, which are probably cute enough to drive my word picture from your mind. It was a great day with lots of sun and happy kids, and a great contrast to the pouring rain yesterday.

The dark stuff in the plastic tub is a sourdough starter – we looked at dried yeast, live yeast and sourdough starter (it was having a mild day, just a trifle vinegary, quite unlike some of the acetone/vinegar blasts you sometimes get). There were a few expressions of distaste, but nobody fainted. The yellow stuff in the other pot is home made butter.

Note the Florentine-type pizzas with nettles in place of spinach. I’m finally getting back to wild food.

End of the week

It’s 4.30pm on Saturday (though I won’t be posting until later), or 1995 if you follow the other form of dating I’ve been using. In 1995 I’m married with kids, happy and couldn’t tell you what was happening in the outside world because I didn’t have time to notice.

Wikipedia tells me that John Major called a leadership election to confirm his leadership of the party. I mention this only because it gives me chance for a John Major anecdote. I met him once and was introduced. About an hour later I met him again and he remembered my name. There was no need for him to have done that and it struck me that a man who could remember names like that, and appear to be pleased to meet you for a second time, would probably rise high in politics. He did.

There’s probably room for a whole digression on leadership and what it takes to succeed in politics here, but it wouldn’t be as interesting as cookery and gardening. I wish I’d realised that years ago.

Here are some pictures of a Wild greens quiche with guinea fowl eggs. My wife is making me describe weeds as wild greens now. Some years ago we went through a similar process with a product I now call “manure”.

It’s onions, blanched nettles and fat hen in  a ready made pastry case. After adding the eggs and milk I dropped torn up chive blossom, calendula petals and whole borage flowers to the top. I will have to work on preserving the colour of the petals.

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The water I blanched the nettles in took on a lovely green colour after just a minute or two of steeping and after removing the leaves I drank it. Much nicer than the cup I made earlier in the week, and much fresher tasting, though it did have overtones of calabrese. Compared with overtones of fox I’ll go for that.  With hindsight I should have strained the insect shaped bits out of it, but I’m not a vegetarian so no harm done.

We have another school next week, a planning session, part one of my takeover of the catering side and I’m going to do some cuttings with willow water. The comfrey plant food is decidedly murky now – you wouldn’t want to swim in a pond that colour- and the indoor salads are really getting a move on now, in contrast to the disappointing outdoor salads.

Finally, after seeing my display of Wild Salad at the Open Farm Sunday I’ve been asked if I can do one at a buffet in  a few weeks time. My weedy fame is spreading!

 

 

 

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Focaccia and nettle soup

It was the baking group again today, though they were slightly thinned out by holidays. It’s always good to see them because they are a happy lot. This is good when you’re baking (as some of my attempts have been horrendous and several, despite exhortations to “re-use the dough” have ended up in the bin – sometimes scraped from my fingers, and sometimes propelled with at speed). The fact that Focaccia was bread of the day was a bonus. It always smells so good.

I wasn’t baking today – I lost my baking mojo a while back and my enthusiasm has faded. I need to start getting it back now, particularly as several schools have been asking for bread making as an option when they come to visit. The smell of freshly baked focaccia and rosemary is just the sort of thing to bring back that enthusiasm. Not that I’m overly enthusiastic about the school sessions – it can be a bit of a dull day for the kids when you keep dragging them back into the kitchen for the next stage.

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That reminds me, I have a teacher to ring back.

At the end of the session I gave out nettle soup. One or two slunk out without taking any (though I bear no grudges) but several drank it cold there and then and the rest took pots home with them. I’m easy with foraging and can take it or leave it, but it’s good to produce food from found ingredients and to introduce people to new experiences. It’s also, as somebody once said in a book, good to eat foraged food once in a while because it gives you a range of nutrients. However, there are reasons that we eat spinach instead of nettles, with the stings being just one of them.

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I have actually set myself a target of learning something new every day this year. My learing for today was that I didn’t know how to spell focaccia. In fact I just had to check it after writing that.

Finally, can anyone tell me how ro swirl cream into soup and have it still look good by the time you’ve switched your camera on. In an effort to raise my game last night I swirled the cream, sprinkled the freshly picked chives and took this picture that looks like a curdled face.

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Behind every successful man…

You wouldn’t think one small woman could contain so many orders but by the time she’d finished I had a list big enough to see out my Saturday, which is why I’m sitting down at just after four to finish the day. It’s not been the longest of working days, but it is Saturday and a chap expects a bit of slack.

I’ve bought compost, potted, repotted, sown seeds, weeded and swept up. I’ve tidied, moved things, made compost, picked rhubarb and watered. I did find time for a cup of tea and to show off my new “tea plantation”, talk to a keen new volunteer (I’ll soon turn her into a cynic) and er…

That reminds me, I seem to have missed lunch. I knew there was something I’d forgotten.

If I call it a diet I can feel virtuous. And hungry.

My nettle crop is looking good – enough tops for a good soup and enough mature leaves to start drying for tea. Unfortunately The Farmer and his farmer’s brain have noticed them and told me to eradicate them. This calls for either blackmail or distraction tactics. I will apply my thoughts to the problem.

This was the weather this afternoon just before the rain. Not quite as good as it has been and there’s a definite bite in the 25 kph wind – good job I decided not to jump the gun with the planting out. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

100!

I’ve been looking forward to this one as a milestone, though simply getting to number 100 is no guarantee of quality, or that I’ll have something to say.

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This is actually the 103rd post I’ve written for the blog but I’ve sidelined two as not quite fitting in. One was on the evils of cheap toilet rolls, including a discussion on why smaller cardboard tubes may be better for transport but they make planting runner beans more difficult.

The other was about keeping rats out of compost but it spread a little to include other rat-related topics. Before clicking on the link you may like to know that you keep rats out of compost by making it damp enough to be unpleasant. If you have rodents in the compost it means it’s too dry.

We had a meeting in the centre today and two soups for lunch – Leek and potato with thyme, and Nettle and Spinach. Everybody had some of the nettle in the end, though a couple did start off with Leek and Potato to break themselves in gently. Last time we did soup and sandwiches we only persuaded around 60% of people to have the soup even though the choice was Pea and Mint or Vegetable, which are not at all scary compared to Nettle.

With the meeting, the cafe and the allotment group we had quite a crowd. I was supposed to be weeding, sowing more seeds and re-potting as part of our plan for a plant sale. Regular readers (both of them) will recognise this as a prelude to admitting that by the time I’d made extra sandwiches, been ensnared by the cafe, done some weeding, spoken to some parents about coming to our next Kids in the Kitchen day, run an impromptu farm tour and done some paperwork I didn’t do much of what I was meant to do. I did, however, remember to water the plants in the polytunnels. That’s good, because I don’t always remember.

The party day

The threatened children arrived, took the farm by storm, had nettle soup (in large quantity in one case), thoroughly enjoyed themselves and then left. The floors are actually looking cleaner than when I arrived to set up, thanks to parental input. Despite the noise and squeakiness and jollity I actually quite enjoyed it, though I am grateful to my kids for taking up martial arts and rugby rather than going to parties.

I was also able to take money off four passing ramblers and give out a number of leaflets for Julia’s Easter Event (biscuit making and Woodland Treasure Hunt).

If you’re about on Tuesday 7th April it’s 10.30 – 3.00, ages 5-11 and £7.50 per child including ingredients and chocolate. Bring wellies and a packed lunch.

Sadly many of my readers come from a long way away but if you don’t ask you don’t get.

We also had a visit from the Goat Lady, who was much cheerier and less bearded than the name suggests. She’s generally happy about the goats so we must be doing something right.

All in all, a happy end to the week.