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!
I have growing lemon verbena for years, have read numerous recipes but never quite got round to using it until by chance I came across Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for Verbena Lemonade made with crushed leaves of lemon verbena infused in hot water with a couple of tablespoons of sugar. I gave it a go and it has quickly become a favourite – really quick and easy to make and delicious to drink. Once made it can be stored in the fridge for about a week or you could freeze it to bring a taste of summer to mid winter.
To drink squeeze lemon or lime juice and add to lemon verbena infusion – I find 2 lemons or limes add the right level of zing for a litre. Not being contented with drinking it I have also used it to make lovely light summery jellies served with a skim of pouring cream on the top, a few berries on the side and some shortbread. If you are feeling really organised adding lemon or lime zest to the shortbread complements the jellies.
And the final use of this easy to make drink is to add a dash of gin for a summer evening tipple or for a sparkling version pour a little lemon verbena infusion (without the lemon or lime juice) into a glass and top up with prosecco – enjoy!
We’ve had some rain and it’s a beautiful evening so I have been outside planting out leeks, kale and sprouts in whatever gaps I can find in the vegetable garden. On my way back to the house I checked out the polytunnel – tomatoes are doing well , the cucumber glut is progressing with alarming speed and the climbing french beans just needed to be picked.
As I was picking the beans my thoughts turned to Jerry, a dear friend who sadly is no longer with us. He used to amuse the boys when they were little with the question – ‘how many beans make five?’
The answer which must be said at high speed is
‘two beans, a bean, a bean and a half and half a bean’
after years of repeating it I can say it quickly, without hesitation and without even thinking. How I wish I had asked Jerry the origin of the saying.
So as the french and runner beans in the vegetable garden struggle to get established due to wind, cold weather especially at nights and anything else you can think of to blame- I am delighted with the results in the tunnel. I had never tried growing broad beans and climbing french beans in the polytunnel before so I gave it a whirl this year. We have been eating broad beans for about 6 weeks now and have moved seamlessly from the tunnel to the outdoor crop. But even better the climbing beans are prolific and tonight’s harvest went straight into the freezer.
As a result of the early bean crop I have been experimenting with some new recipes. All year I have been enjoying following the months in Hugh Fearnley-Whiitingstall’s book The River Cottage Year and one of July’s recipes is french beans with tapenade and chicken. I liked the basic idea of the recipe but not too sure about anchovies and thought what about using a mixture of fresh summer vegetables – french and broad beans and tiny baby courgettes. The experiment worked and served with freshly dug potatoes it is a really tasty meal.
See – summer vegetables with tapenade and chicken recipe
And if anyone knows the answer to the origin of ‘how many beans make five?’ do let me know!
It’s uncanny that it’s exactly a year and two days since I picked last year’s crop of gooseberries.( In search of Elderflowers.) The glorious sunshine that we had over the weekend has fully ripened the fruit on the first bush. So tonight was the night to venture into the fruit cage, armed with a trug, wondering what this year’s crop would weigh in at.
My helpful husband pruned the bushes last autumn and the grass is a bit wet after heavy rainfall so I had to bend to pick the fruit and not cheat by kneeling. After a few minutes I wished I hadn’t eaten before setting forth on my gathering. Then I suddenly thought of yoga and the squat position malasana or garland pose that we had been practising in last week’s class. Problem solved – not quite the perfect yogi’s version as my feet were hip width apart and my hands were busy picking rather than in the prayer position. But what had seemed like a back breakin, dinner squashing job turned into a relaxing deep breathing moment of calming yoga and with the added bonus of a full trug of gooseberries.
It is quite a relief that the first bush has only yielded a mere 8lb of gooseberries compared with last year’s 11lb but what is even better is that there are none of last year’s gooseberries lurking in the freezer. So tonight as I sit topping and tailing them, sadly not outside on a glorious sunny evening like last year but inside with a fleece on , I will think about what to make. First off will be my favourite gooseberry fool but I wonder what different recipes can I find to try this year?
And of course due to repairs to the fruit cage it is unlikely that the second bush will suffer from the squirrel attack of last year so there will be pounds more of fruit to pick and another yoga moment.
Is there such a thing a as strawberry joy? Well if there is we are experiencing it this year. After years of disappointment due to wildlife attacks despite trying all sorts of cunning ways of beating them- nets, cages, hanging planters …
This year we are enjoying a bumper crop and have a clear conscience as we have not harmed a single mouse, bird, snail, slug or squirrel. The solution is growing the plants in large pots, filled with beech leaf mould, and placing them high on old trestle tables in the polytunnel.
We have enjoyed and shared the strawberries and following this year’s success plans are afoot to increase the number of pots and to try and have a big enough crop to make jam next year.
And our second moment of pride is that the swallows have checked out the new open sided barn and have built a nest – the first we have ever had. So let’s hope next year we will have a gulp of swallows as well as a glut of strawberries.