Saturday, 18 March 2017

wild harvests.

These last few weeks, signs of Spring have been everywhere.
We have had days as warm as any summer's day when coats have been discarded and it has been a pleasure to slowly amble along on a walk feeling the sun warming the skin.

Then just as suddenly, a day or two later, it seemed that winter returned and gloves, scarves and boots were pulled back on.

Older daughter had an idea to go foraging for some wild harvests.
Now is the perfect time to collect young nettles and wild garlic.
I am an anxious forager, fearing disaster at every turn, but nettles with their fierce sting and garlic with its distinctive smell are easily identifiable!
So armed with gloves and a bag, we sought out some doggie - free areas. 
Nettles are abundant everywhere and we quickly picked a bag full of nettle tops.
Tiny Girlie only got as far as putting on gloves which was probably just as well. She can already identify nettles having had some nasty stings on her knee during one of her many outdoor escapades with her Mama.
I have to admire our daughter and her husband. They take their tiny toddler on numerous nature adventures.
There is nothing she loves more than squelching through mud, playing with sticks, admiring a stone, a bud, a flower.
As a result, at the age of barely two and a half, she knows the names of an impressive array of natural features.

She probably also has a very developed immune system.
Back in the 80s when our daughters were babies, it seemed that everything had to be cleaned and sterile. 
Consequently, I doused cups, plates, spoons, toys, work surfaces, practically everything in a solution of Milton and wouldn't let either of them within a mile of anything muddy!
Now, numerous studies have shown that some dirt is good for toddlers in developing a good immune system.

Armed with our bag of nettle tops and some wild garlic ( from daughter's garden) we returned home with the idea of making pesto.
We gave the wild garlic and nettles a good wash in plenty of cold water (remember the rubber gloves!)  then blanched the nettles in boiling, salted water for a couple of minutes.
At this point, our bag of nettle tops had reduced down to one small fistful, which, rather like spinach, needed a good squeeze to remove excess water. Nettles lose their sting after being cooked.

The quantities were roughly as follows, but feel free to adapt to taste:
2 handfuls nettle tops
1 handful wild garlic
50 grams nuts ( I used a combination of pine nuts and pecans as this is what was in the cupboard)
50 grams Parmesan cheese
150-200 ml olive oil
Salt, pepper and lemon juice to season.

Lightly toast the nuts in a dry frying pan, then when cool, grind finely in a food processor.
Add the chopped wild garlic, nettle tops and Parmesan.
Blend, then add the oil gradually with the motor running until it reaches the desired consistency.
You may not need all the oil.
Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice and spoon into a sterilised jar. Cover with a thin layer of oil to act as a seal before putting on the lid.
The quantities made two small jars and it should keep in the fridge for a week or two.
Should you be interested, this article gives information on the nutritional value of nettles and further recipes and tips. 

The pesto turned out to be rather delicious and was met with approval by mr digandweed.
It has a definite garlic kick and was lovely with crackers and raw vegetable sticks, but would also make an excellent topping for soup or stirred through pasta for example.


Saturday, 4 March 2017

The month of March

The month of March has arrived and with it comes Spring.
 The first day of Spring is 20th March, unless of course, you follow the meteorological seasons, in which case Spring arrived a few days ago on March 1st!
Either way, days are getting longer, birds are singing and buds are waiting to burst.

I spent a pleasant couple of hours on the allotment earlier in the week.
A quick inspection showed no damage from the recent gales, just a bit of routine tidying needed:  a light pruning of the gooseberry and lavender bushes, some weeding (as ever !) and a bit of an overhaul of the Autumn Bliss raspberry canes.
I cut each cane down to ground level and dug out some of the runners which were making a bid for freedom in an attempt to prevent the thicket which ensued last year.
We shall see!

Back home in the kitchen, a rummage in the vegetable basket, unearthed a couple of butternut squash left from last autumn and still in good condition.
Flicking through the latest edition of Waitrose Food, I had already spotted a recipe for warm winter salad with roast pepper dressing which looked interesting and squash was one of the ingredients required.

The roast pepper dressing was a simple whizz-in-the-blender task and produced enough tasty dressing for the salad and some to keep in the fridge as a useful addition for other salads or pasta etc.

The salad itself may not be particularly photogenic but I liked the combination of flavours - the buttery avocado, slightly bitter cabbage and the acidic tang of the dressing.
It made a fairly quick and simple supper.

Today, the sun is shining here and it feels very springlike in our sheltered garden.
I may even take a cup of tea outside and sit on the garden bench a while. 🌞