As a rule, I'm better with autumnal activities than with summer ones, but I think I've come up with something that might be fun!
As a kid, I used to go blackberry picking every summer. They used to grow in almost every hedgerow in North Wales, and they provided us with a huge supply of apple and blackberry crumbles, jams and trifles. Of course, blackberry-picking is still an option, but now that I live in an urban area, they're not as easy to come by. Nettles are plentiful though!
Nettles grow on ground that has been disturbed, such as old building sites, pathways and even by canals. They're everywhere! The trick is however, to avoid nettles that grow beside the roadside, as they tend to be contaminated by exhaust fumes. So stick to quieter areas.
When picking nettles take a pair of marigolds, or surgical cloves, or even normal gloves – anything to protect you from the stingers! Cut the nettle-tops at an angle with a pair of scissors (cutting at an angle encourages plant growth, apparently), and store your picked nettles in a carrier bag.
Once home, wash the nettles thoroughly. Keep your gloves on whilst doing this however, as the sting will remain until the nettles come into contact with hot water.
Here are a few recipes to try once you have your foraged plants!
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
2 crushed Garlic cloves
400g Potatoes, peeled and chopped
450g Nettle tops, freshly picked
1 litre Vegetable Stock
150ml Double Cream
Nutmeg, freshly grated
Salt and Black Pepper
Begin by frying off the onions and garlic in the vegetable oil (fry the onions for a while first, so as not to overcook and burn the garlic).
Then add the potatoes and nettles and fry for a further two minutes.
Add the vegetable stock and simmer for fifteen minutes.
Add the cream toward the end of the cooking process and blend the mixture. (Alternatively, you could add some rice to the soup instead. Once cooked through and blended, the rice provides the same texture as cream, but is much, much healthier!)
Leave to cool. Once cooled, blend and reheat as needed.
Nettle and Potato Curry
60g Ghee (or you can replace with Vegetable Oil)
1 large Onion, sliced
250g Potatoes, quartered
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
2 Green Chillies, finely chopped
Half a teaspoon of Ground Ginger
1kg Nettles, roughly chopped
Melt the ghee in a saucepan (or heat the vegetable oil) and fry the onions until soft.
Add the potatoes, cumin, chillies, ginger and water. Cover and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the spinach and cook for another 2 minutes.
Uncover the pan, and simmer until the water has evaporated. Replace the lid, and cook on a very low heat for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. (The water will have gone, but the oil will remain, so if you cook the mixture at a low enough heat, it won't burn to the bottom of the pan.)
Sugar to taste
Wash the nettles to ensure that they are free of insects and dirt.
Place a generous handful of the nettles into a teapot (alternatively, place nettles into a metallic tea infuser) and brew in hot water for three to five minutes.
Pour, and add sugar to taste.
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