Jane and I have been visiting the local hedgrerows and horsefields recently and have regularly come back with a bumper crop of nettles and wild garlic. It is such a wonderful time of year for these abundant herbs, they’re also easy to identify so there is no reason why we shouldn’t all be taking advantage of one of natures finest freebies!
This is a pistou (French/ Italian) not a pesto (Italian), mainly due to the lack of nuts. If you add pine nuts, or anyother nut, you’d probably call it a pesto. Otherwise both are potent blends and something rather special to have hanging around the fridge.
There are a vast amount of edible shoots, leaves and berries that we are not aware of (by we, I mean us at the BHK!) We have books, we have TV programmes, but you cannot beat getting out there and having a look at whats growing for yourself. For example, we have recently learnt that young hawthorn leaves are a rare sweet treat. We’re taking it easy and adding a few new foraging delights to the menu each year.
Wild garlic and nettles have magical health properties. Nettle tea is a staple at this time of year and this pesto blend makes the most of both. It can be kept in the fridge for while and adds a unique flavour to anything it touches. Dressings, soups, stews, bread, to name a few we’ve stuck it in.
Nettles were used extensively in ancient Tibet and the Buddhist saint Milarepa was said to live on them when on retreat, turning green and enlightened.
Jane and I have gotten ourselves into a multitude of busy situations, gardening being but one. There has been much rain recently and today we managed to get out into the garden and pop the potatoes into the earth. We also have much beetroot, cavolo nero, spinach, rocket, rainbow chard, sunflowers and I can’t remember the rest. Needless to say, we are excited about the prospects of the Beach House Garden this year and have our fingers well crossed for a mild, wind-free summer. Very, very, very wishful thinking.
60g nettle leaves, 40g wild garlic leaves, 4 garlic cloves (crushed), 100ml evoo, 100g veg pecorino (using wild flower rennet), 1 pinch salt and 2 pinch pepper
Blanch nettle quickly (30 seconds) in simmering water, this will keep them nice and green and take the sting out of them!
Blend together until paste formed. Add a little more olive oil if you like in runny. For old fashioned style, use a pestle and mortar, if you’re modern, whizz in a food processor. Simple as this.
In a pistou stew, see below, or spread on toast! It really comes to life tossed in warm pasta.
We Love It!
It literally grows on trees (or below them). This is our type of gardening, wander around pick it, no digging or engaging the brain. Go for a walk with a plastic bag and one rubber glove (those nettles take no prisoners) and you have a harvest on your hand.
Nettles contain bags of chlorophyll, calcium, iron, trace minerals, vitamins and proteins. They can be made into paper, hair lotions, thread, soil enricher (great on tomatoes!), disinfectant for stalls and stables, cups of tea…..It is a tonic, diuretic, astringent, anti-asthmatic, chi strengthener, anti-anaemic, laxative and a nettle brew can heal damage tissue. It strengthens kidneys, lungs, intestines and arteries with regular use.