The perfect pink of nettle cordial

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Here’s a post from a few years ago but perhaps you have a bit more time for foraging and trying out new recipes at the minute- enjoy. It is definitely worth the effort!

So about 2 weeks ago I put on my thick gloves and lifted my basket and went nettle picking. My recipe was for 1 litre of nettle cordial but being a cautious soul I halved the quantities just in case I didn’t like it. Out I went to gather the required 100g of nettle tops. I knew it would be a lot more than you would expect (just like spinach) but my first ‘weigh in’ was a measly 75g so back out I went.

I washed and dried the nettles, placed  them in a bowl and added the solution of water, citric acid  and sugar  – it’s quite an unusual smell! After a week it was time to filter and sample the result.

The perfect pink liquid was delicious diluted with sparkling water – a definite success!

I had a bit of fun a few days later when I put the members of a local gardening club to the test  – not one person guessed what it was. Many thought it was gooseberry.

I am so pleased with the result that it will be gloves on for a mass harvest. I plan to make a couple of litres and freeze it in containers  so we can enjoy nettle cordial throughout the summer.

A 2020 update is that I have now discovered that this nettle cordial is a nice addition to gin and tonic!
I researched a number of websites for recipes and you can see the recipe for my version of nettle cordial  here or check out the sites below – there are loads more!
eatweeds.co.uk

C-19 time to blog again

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Like many people the enforced ‘time out’ caused by the coronavirus pandemic has given me a chance to stop, think and reflect.  The total cessation of all my planned workshops, talks and events took a bit of adjusting to.

Back in 2013 I was fortunate to visit Nepal, a trip that had a profound effect on me and was the catalyst for fundamental changes in my life including starting More than Willow.

This man epitomised my visit to Nepal. In a remote tea house in Langtang he produced the most delicious vegetable fried rice cooked on a clay stove using a few locally grown and freshly picked ingredients but prepared with care and served with a smile. It made me think about the need to produce rather than consume, to be content rather than strive.

Shortly after my return home I started to write a blog to share my thoughts on food, plants and life in general and so the free ranging blog was born. For the next three years I shared my random thoughts until More than Willow got established.

This covid-19 enforced isolation has given me once again the opportunity to think about what is really important  to me – contentment, valuing and taking joy in our natural world and treading with as light a footprint as I can as I journey through life.

So I thought it is perhaps time to share a few of my old free ranging thoughts and some new ones too.  It may be of interest to some or it may just be good for me to write but I hope  others will enjoy this random collection too..

The Horseradish says spring is on its way

It’s been a while since I’ve written I guess I can blame putting all my energies into More than Willow but that is another story and a happy one too.

We have been waiting for spring to appear and it seems to have been just around the corner for ages. All of a sudden the bees, the call of the chiffchaff and fresh green shoots are all evidence that winter is almost over.

But despite eagerly yearning for spring and watching for signs once again I have almost been caught sleeping.  The horseradish which should have been dug up and processed months ago was harvested just before the first leaves  appeared and the horseradish butter is safely in the freezer. The last of the parsnips have been harvested too so last night’s parsnip mash with horesradish butter was a winter treat – to celebrate spring?

The very last stands of willow were cut last week and though there was no sign of leaf on them stools that had been cut in January have teeny tiny shoots appearing – isn’t nature wonderful?

20170312_first leaves    20170312_buds

So skipping with spring in my step I am off outside to enjoy the sunshine and with stout gloves on  gather nettles to make nettle cordial – a first for me and one that I will report on when complete.

Clarity of light and the beauty of winter colours

I am not sure whether the light this year has really been any different to previous years or whether I have just been more aware of it but one thing is for sure is that today was stunning.  The day started with a crisp clear sunrise with the sheep in the back field standing Christmas card like to welcome the new day.

As the sun rose in the sky became a wonderful clear blue a perfect backdrop for winter trees and the recent frost shave heightened and deepened the colour of so many trees and shrubs.  The frost gives seed heads from summer flowers a magical outline and spiders’ webs glisten in the early morning light.

I spent the morning cutting willow of many colours. My labours were interrupted frequently as I was distracted by the sheer beauty of the day and of nature.  The delicate spindle berries with their orange seed cased in a delicate pink fruit which looks like it should be in an exotic garden rather than a Shropshire hedgerow.  The long tailed tits with their pink tinged feathers flitting and twittering in the dark willow – their delicate colours complementing the emerging pussy willows.  Flocks of Redwing passed to and fro stopping to feast in the ancient field hedges with their fine array of different fruits and seeds – spindle, rosehip, haw, alder buckthorn and sloe.

Rose hips and willow in the winter sunshine  20161201_132259

 

 

 

 

 

As I reluctantly decided to head homeward y three swans flew over – the bright sunlight behind them meant that I couldn’t tell whether they were Whooper or Bewick but I like to think they were Whooper.

How lucky I a20161201_175102m to have spent a morning enjoying  the beauty of nature and to spend the afternoon working with the freshly cut willow.

 

It’s been a funny old year

Maybe it shows my age but when I reflect on the growing seasons this year I feel like  Arkwright from Open All Hours as he closes up the shop for the night with ‘It’s been a funny old day Granville…

I think it has been a funny old year this year with seasons merging into each other which has prolonged the growing period for many fruit and vegetables – it’s great that there is  in the middle of October there is still a lots to chose from.  Tonight we had a marrow stuffed with a savoury lentil sauce made with freshly picked tomatoes, green pepper and aubergine topped off with cheese – pretty tasty!
20161019_red-blackberries
This afternoon when I was out gathering autumn berries and leaves I was surprised to see shiny red unripe blackberries rather than wizened and mouldy over ripe blackberries that you would expect at this time of year. And yet when I was checking the sloes (thinking it’s almost time to make sloe gin) I was amazed to find that the laden bushes of last week are almost stripped bare of fruit.

So what else makes me think it’s been a funny old year in the garden?  Well we have been cropping climbing beans from the polytunnel since May and there are still a few stragglers left but on the other hand the runner beans just didn’t grow until the end of August so we have been eating young and tender runners as an autumn vegetable. Sadly that means there won’t be any getting to the seed stage before frost appear so no home grown dried beans to add to chillies this winter.

basket-of-veg

Courgettes have been virtually nonexistent both in and out doors and yet the cucumbers have been like triffids they have just kept on growing p and are still growing. I have developed a taste for cucumber water and along with my new found delight in making flavoured gins I can thoroughly recommend cucumber gin – just pop about 4 slices into a tot of gin and leave for about 5 minutes before adding the tonic.

So a funny old year – but maybe every year is a funny year so that  gardeners have something to talk about!