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.
I think we should try goose grass next- also unmistakable! And get some more nettles to make soup! XxReplyDelete
Haha! Ok :) xxDelete
Richard Mabey's 'Food for free' was the foraging 'bible' in our youth and is still in print, if you want to explore more foody possibilities.ReplyDelete
Ah yes! I mentioned this book to Hannah. We don't have a copy but Hannah was going to look online to see if she could get one.xDelete
Mmm, sounds and looks delicious, well done you, food for free is always a treat. We're big fans of mud around here as well. CJ xxReplyDelete
Thank you. I was surprised by how nice the pesto tasted ....and I am learning to love mud in all its glorious squelchiness!Delete
Everything about this post is so very right. It's years since I've eaten nettles - yes, we used to have that Maney book too! You've inspired me.ReplyDelete
Thank you Colleen. I'm glad I have inspired you :)Delete
That really does sound delicious. I've never managed to find wild garlic but do make nettle soup occasionally.ReplyDelete
I think nettle soup is next on our list!Delete
I'd love to find wild garlic - I didn't think it grew in the Fens!ReplyDelete
Hi Suelle. It's true that wild garlic tends to grow in damp woodland and there is not much woodland left in the Fens, but there are a couple of areas near here along the river Nene where it thrives. It often grows in the same areas as bluebells. Good luck in tracking some down :)Delete
I'm near Ely - the Nene's a bit far to travel to search for a few leaves, but I'll check out areas where bluebells grow locally. Thanks.Delete
Looks so good. Me and my boy picked wild garlic for the first time yesterday. Now to decide what to do with it! Wonder if the pesto would work without parmesan?ReplyDelete
Hope you find a use for your wild garlic Liz. Is there such a thing as vegan Parmesan or have I imagined that ?!Delete