Friday, 6 May 2016


Stinging Nettles - Friend Not Foe

My Woodland Field has an abundance of stinging nettles (Urticaceae dioica) and not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth I'm very keen to use whatever I can get my hands on that's FREE.

Nettle Pesto

This is one of Ness' recipes and as usual she's a bit vague about the quantities for this type of thing.  Her justification is that it's not one of those baking recipes where you need to be meticulous about measuring - it's more a matter of personal taste.  Wear thin rubber gloves when picking and handling the nettles for obvious reasons.  All I can say that as usual with her ideas it tastes fantastic...

1oz or thereabouts fresh breadcrumbs
1pt (Ness uses a plastic measuring jug) young nettles or tips of older plants.
1oz strong cheese grated
1clove garlic
1/4 pint of your favourite oil or a mixture of whatever you fancy... 

1.  Toast the breadcrumbs in a dry pan over the fire until golden - shake often or they'll burn.
2.  Pick over the stingers discarding all but the thinnest stalks.
3.  Fill a bowl with freezing cold water & keep chilled in the fridge /freezer.
4.  Half fill a large saucepan with water, bring to the boil & immerse the nettles.  Drain the water             immediately into a jug and keep for later.
5.  Plunge the wilted nettles straight into the icy cold water, this retains the bright green colour.                As soon as they're cold remove & squeeze out the water.
6.  Put all the ingredients into a blender on a slowish setting & gradually trickle in the oil until              you have a pesto of your favourite consistency.  Add salt & pepper if you like.

The reserved nettle juice that you wilted them in is great for stock but even better chill and drink as a refresher after some hard work bodging...

Other brilliant uses include soups which can be hot on cool damp days or chilled on wonderful hot summer days with blue sky and blowsy white clouds.  A favourite of ours is also a light fragrant white wine which improves with keeping.  It is crisp on the palate and is a pretty greenish gold colour absolutely smashing - literally if you are unfortunate enough to have a greedy appetite where homebrews are concerned!

Ness giggling in the stingers!

And of course nettles were traditionally used as cord.  It doesn't take long to beat of the wet green flesh and to end up with strong linen type fibres which actually are very handy & durable if you haven't got string in your pockets.  I was particularly impressed when loading the washing machine not long ago to see some new shirt of mine that ness had ordered from a Fair Trade shop was made from something called ramie - I'd thought it was linen.  On checking I find it's a nettle of some sort or other and Ness tells me that when she was at Liberty they stocked a complete range of table linen and the USP was that it was made from nettles.

So as far as I'm concerned the humble stinger is a great friend indeed...


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