Wild Nettle Houmous

Stinging nettles are a godsend in April, when supplies of last season’s veggies are running low and next season’s veggies are not quite ready. Continue reading “Wild Nettle Houmous”

Weeding Out Unwanted Guests

We longed for sun… she smiled on us.

We craved warmth… he cradled us.

We prayed for spring… she came.

But who invited the bloody weeds?!

Two weeks ago, I was up on the plot relishing freshly-cultivated beds, basking in the clean brown canvas without an unwanted squatter in sight. I go up there today with a bundle of pea sticks and the idea of taking it easy with just a little ‘pottering’ around, and what am I greeted with? Weeds! Hmm, It would seem the war has come early this year to Plot 23d. 2 bed

With an afternoon of reclaiming my territory, I’ve had to dig deep and hard to remove those battle-hardened perennial weeds. Tricky buggers, with such a deep tap root, you really have to make sure you get all of it out otherwise it’ll be back a few weeks later with reinforcements. At the moment, I’ve got several beds lying empty and a polytunnel full of eager plants wanting to declare war on the spreading enemy, but until I know we’ve seen the last of the frost, I’m reluctant to plant out. ‘Get to mid-May’ I keep telling myself, ‘then unleash hell!’

When I took on the second allotment late last year, it had been abandoned for several years and was teeming with knee-high grass and weeds of all description, from Urtica dioica to Taraxacum officinale, the place was packed. So last winter I had my work cut out as I removed as much as I could, creating new paths and beds along the way. I wasn’t totally naive, I new there would be a little payback from the enemy.. but I wasn’t expecting this!coll 2

You might have noticed I threw in a little Latin just then. I’m not going to lie, I was showing-off! It would seem my RHS studies are finally paying off, Latin rolls off the tongue… not! Studying with the RHS has opened a new door to the world of horticulture for me, nevertheless there is a downside. As well as learning about plants and vegetables, you’re also studying pests and diseases, and the devastation they can do to your precious organic world. As a gardener I’ve always had a respect for the enemy, but now I’m studying them up close, my head is filled with a whole new world of paranoia. It’s like I’m looking for trouble before anything has even happened! A whisker of Poa annua (there I go again) and I’ve sucker punched it, a sleepy slug slides into view and I’ve roundhouse kicked it before it’s had time for an introduction. And if there’s an appearance of Calystegia septum (Bind Weed).. I take it to a whole new level of pain. Welcome to the gardening school of Chuck Norris; this is going to hurt you more than it’s going to hurt me.

So today’s lesson today is this, no matter how hard you try to remove the pests and diseases from the gardening equation, they’re always going to be there, they’re part of the maths. It’s nature’s way of telling you that the extra hard work will give you a much greater appreciation of the end result.

Nettle

Or if you’re like me, you stick two fingers up to weeds and turn them into a nettle feed for your  tomatoes. HAHAHA victory is mine! AdeSignature

Nettle Pesto

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This recipe was a revelation. I grabbed a few young nettle leaves from the allotment, blanched them (very important as this gets rid of the sting!) and bashed them up with some oil, garlic, pine nuts and parmesan, and hey pesto! It made enough to feed two with spaghetti, but you could easily make more and keep it in a jar covered with oil in the fridge and it would probably last a week or so.

You’ll need to wear gloves when harvesting/prepping the nettles, and feel free to adjust any of the quantities according to taste. The following made quite a gutsy pesto, absolutely delicious and so full of vitamins and iron!

NETTLE PESTO
Serves: 2  Prep/cooking time: 15 mins

Ingredients

80g young nettles (remove any coarse pieces of stalk)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
30g parmesan cheese, grated
handful of pine nuts
squeeze of lemon juice

Method

Bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch the nettles for 1-2 minutes before draining and plunging into iced water to stop them cooking.

Meanwhile, crush the garlic and grate the parmesan cheese.

Drain the nettles and squeeze out all the water you can. They’ll have lost their sting by now. You’ll be left with a small ball of green. Chop finely.

Place the garlic, cheese and nettles in a large bowl and pour over the olive oil.

Pound thoroughly with the end of a rolling pin.

Add the pine nuts and a squeeze of lemon juice before giving the pesto another good pounding.

I added some freshly cooked spaghetti to the bowl and tossed everything together before serving, but you can do all sorts with the pesto: spread it on bread or pizza bases, coat meat with it. You can easily make it in a blender or with a pestle and mortar if you prefer.

Enjoy!
SophieSignature

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