The first harvest of the year is in.

Yesterday, following my rant about dropping out, I decided to make more of a conscious effort to avoid the mass-produced things which seem to be fuelling our current system – petty rebellion against Tesco always makes me feel slightly better in these situations, despite making sweet F.A. difference. Armed with a pair of plastic gloves and some clippers, belly and I took to the garden to gather nettles, dandelions and rhubarb.

After I used up my nettle tea supply in the middle of November, I’ve been – foolishly – buying teabags from the supermarket, paying silly money for things which grow in my garden anyway. This year, I have decided to make at least triple the quantity of last year in order to sustain me through the winter months. Also, because I am still very much in electric economy mode, I decided to dry the leaves of both the nettle and the dandelion plants on the dashboard of my car, rather that turn on the oven in this scorching heat. I am aware that most of you will not think that the past few days qualify as ‘scorching’, however those of us with glow-in-the-dark legs have radically different ideas about temperature to the general populus.

 

Nettle tea, drying in the house whilst the car is in shade.

Again, waiting for the sun to hit the windscreen. I'm not sure which dandelion bits you stew in tea but as they're all edible, I decided it didn't matter too much.

 

As for the rhubarb, this sadly isn’t from the plant which I set last year. Although it has come up again it started putting out seeds which, according to my gardening guru next door, means it won’t fruit well enough to really use. As a result, the rhubarb in my curd has come from the top of the field, just beyond the vegetable patch and the fruit trees. I wish I’d known about it last spring because there is masses of the stuff and I just know that it will have gone to waste. The top house’s previous residents – lovely as they were – weren’t really ones for hedgerow harvests.

 

This is delicious - a slightly green-tinted version of familiar lemon-curd. The taste isn't massively different either so if you want a locally grown alternative to lemons then this is definitely the way forward.

 

Though not strictly a something I’ve cropped, I have also started my own ginger-beer plant. I’m hoping that over the next week or so I’ll be able to brew up an 8L batch to lay down in the shed. I don’t know if it will come out with an alcoholic content but I’m sure I can find some willing volunteers who will let me know. It’s surprisingly easy to do as well – you just need around a tablespoon of yeast, 250ml tepid water and enough sugar and ginger to feed the mix with half a teaspoon of each per day. I’m going to have to boil up the actual syrup – to which you add your yeast mix – on the barbecue though as the only pan I have which is big enough for the task shorts out the house.

Today’s mission, when I can be bothered getting dressed and showering, will be to harvest yet more nettles and have a go at making nettle pesto. I’m going to use sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts, partially because that’s what I have in the house but mostly because I’m growing some sunflowers, some garlic and some nettles and think it will be interesting to see if – aside from the olive-oil, obviously – I can create a pesto which is made entirely from things harvested from around my house. I will let you know how I get on…

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