When the rain cleared a little, we found boots, gloves, baskets and scissors and approached the nettle patches. A mob of trade weaners (that’s young cattle bought to fatten and re-sell) had passed through and done a first cut, but with some fossicking we found the fresher looking growth. I only had one glove, so the harvest was an exercise in awareness and focus. Not things I am renowned for. I was transported back to the big nettle patches in Wales, and our muddy adventures as kids. Blood, stings, scratches, cold rain, muck. All highly dramatic near death experiences to us and our friends – Charlotte’s come off her bicycle and she’s broken her back and she’s walking down the drive now…..Oliver is stuck in quicksand, it’s over the top of his boots and if we don’t rescue him right away he’ll…..Benny slipped on the edge of the slurry pit but we got a stick and we dragged him out before…. We were heavily influenced by a children’s farm safety program called Apaches – 35 years later I can still see the accidents – the kid sucked into the grain auger, the kid who drank poison, the kid who sank without trace in the slurry pit, the kid crushed by the tractor, the kid impaled on a rake. It may have left us crippled by anxieties rather than just plain crippled, but I am reminded that our childhood was so much more free range than the experience of kids growing up now. Our guest (more details in the next post) was highly concerned that nettles could be toxic to a heavily pregnant woman, and a web search was very ambiguous. Frequently recommended as a pregnancy tea, and rich in all sorts of fantastic nutrients, the plant still made it to the “possibly unsafe” list on one American site. Beatrice and I discussed the issue, had a think and then another think, and then I concluded that while I am supposed to be eating all kinds of greens, nettles are the only ones I’m craving. I blanched them for 2 minutes, wrung them out in a rolled tea towel, roughly chopped them, then added them to a pestle and mortar with toasted pine nuts, (undeliberately) scorched almonds, two small cloves of garlic, olive oil, three kalamata olives (all we had in the fridge), some orange juice and plenty of orange zest. Lemon is the traditional acidulator for pesto, but ours aren’t ripe yet, so we substituted. I reckon it was the master touch. I also think I was the only one who really enjoyed the dish – one half of the dining table was given over to a Skype meeting to sell real estate and a webinar, James took a call about a seed drill from his Uncle, and our guest of Mauritian origin struggled with the slightly slimy texture of the nettle – it reminded her of the okra she’d been force fed as a kid. I crave okra too, come to think of it.
Our second guest, a well scarred action man and motivational speaker, is often quoted as saying “Give fear the finger”. This time, in my little way, I’m glad I did.
Here’s that creepy little film. Proceed at your own risk…..