Why it’s the best time of year to make Stinging Nettle Scones

Primroses, daisies, violets and leaves in spring flower arrangement

It has been wet here and there’s water in ditches that have been dry for years. Bill and Jack are desperate to get the tractor work done, but alas every sunny and windy spell that dries the fields has been followed by a soaking. On the bright side, there’s plenty growing; primroses smother some of the ditch banks and the violets are flowering profusely.

Stinging Nettles growing wild in England

There are also stinging nettles springing into life. Stinging nettles are unpopular a lot of the time. Unexpectedly encountering a clump of high growing and vicious nettles in the summer when walking with bare legs is a painful experience, as is not noticing small nettles when pulling weeds in the garden. But, it’s always good to have a patch of nettles somewhere out of the way as they’re a good food source for butterflies and insects and their high nitrogen content make them useful on the compost heap or soaked in water to make a liquid feed.

Even better, you can eat nettles and spring is the best time of all to pick them.

If you’ve thought about foraging for wild food but aren’t sure where to start, then try stinging nettles.

Stinging nettles are easy to identify, grow abundantly and they’re nutritious. Be warned though; nettles taste very green. If you look for stinging nettle recipes, Nettle Soup always pops up. I’ve made several batches of nettle soup and sometimes it was OK, sometimes it didn’t taste too good and it was never fantastically delicious. Mostly, it tasted as though it should be good for you. Which indeed it is.

Cooking with Stinging Nettles

We enjoy stinging nettles stirred into risotto, in a hedgerow pesto or as an addition to soda bread and over the years, we’ve decided that we prefer them as a supporting ingredient rather than the star. Perhaps that’s the reason that the recipe I return to every spring and continue to make through to early summer is the one for Stinging Nettle Scones. The nettles don’t dominate but they add interest and if nothing else, provoke a little discussion around the table.

The Best Time of Year to Make Stinging Nettle Scones

Spring is the best time to make Stinging Nettle Scones because you need to use young, tender leaves and not the tough stringy plants of late summer. Did you know that nettles are so fibrous that they can be used to make fabric? That’s why you need young plants for these scones. Although spring is the best time, you can cut down older plants later in the year and wait for the new growth.

Gathering stinging nettles in colander with violets growing beside

Picking Stinging Nettles

Pick the top six or seven leaves from young nettle plants, cutting them straight into a colander so that you don’t have to handle them. Alternatively, wear gardening gloves to avoid stinging your hands. Rinse the leaves, picking out any stray blades of grass, and tip the stinging nettle leaves into a bowl. Pour enough boiling water into the bowl to cover the nettles and leave them to wilt for a couple of minutes. Hey presto, the leaves don’t sting any more. Honestly. Fish them out, squeeze out the excess water and make a batch of scones using the recipe below.

 

Stinging Nettle Scones

Needless to say, these scones are best eaten warm, spread generously with butter.

Go on, be brave and give them a go.

 

How to make Stinging Nettle Scones

Nettle Scones

 

Recipe for Stinging Nettle Scones

 

To make Stinging Nettle Scones:

225g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

60g butter, cubed

Tops of 7 or 8 nettles wilted, drained and squeezed dry (see above)

1 tablespoon of chopped chives

40g strong cheddar cheese cubed

2 dessertspoons plain yoghurt

Milk

 

Put the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter.

Chop the nettles and add to the bowl with the chives and cheese.

Stir in the yoghurt and enough milk to bring the mixture together in a soft but not sticky dough. Tip out the dough onto a floured surface and quickly pat into a round about 4 cms thick. Cut into 4 (or 6) wedges and put them close together on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Brush the tops with milk and bake 220C for about 15 minutes when they should be risen and golden. Wrap in a tea towel and transfer to a wire tray.

Best eaten warm. Liberally spread with butter.

Keep What You Love

Keep What You Love

Farm track in March

Spring has arrived. The violets and primroses are in flower, tiny buds are forming on the hedgerows and the fields are drying out. Best of all, today the sun is shining. (Heavy rain and overnight frosts are forecast for the rest of the week but I’m ignoring that.)

With the advent of spring there was a need to clear the decks and set about a little spring cleaning.

Every room in the house was cleared. No room escaped. No cupboard left untouched.

My aim was “Keep What You Love”. Not in a Marie Kondo type purge that I may later regret (though I do like her clothes folding technique) but more of a Jane Goldney @LempobeeI’ve done a big ol’ purge of china dishes and nicknack-y things and it feels good.

We cleared out broken items beyond repair like the kitchen chair which had two dodgy legs, despite previous and copious applications of wood glue and screws.

We scrapped all those things that had been kept ‘just in case’ but in fact had either been forgotten or proved not to be as useful as we’d thought. Out went scraps of fabric left from clothes made over thirty years ago that had been saved for a quilt that will never be made or cables from computers long since gone.

I got rid of things that I didn’t like. Even if they were a wedding present. Or made by the children when they were small. Or I’d spent weeks and months hand knitting them. I may have muttered Keep What You Love a few times just to remind myself. There are a few things that could more truthfully be described as It’s Not That Bad Really.

There was ethical disposal (recycling and charity shops), less ethical disposal (forcing ‘useful’ things into the arms of family members) and fun disposal (smashing broken crockery) and it was all rather liberating. No more guilt now when I move that ugly jug to reach the loved ones; no subtle manoeuvring larger guests away from rickety chairs.

Hand sewn patchwork quilt

Everything that we’ve kept is there to be used and to be enjoyed, so no more saving for ‘best’ or shutting away to keep safe. I’m applying the same philosophy as I did to the knives that used to belong to Gran. I was told they had to be hand washed, but with four small children I ignored the advice and after more than twenty years of everyday use and dishwasher abuse, the knives are (mostly) fine.

Possessions sorted and still in full spring fervour, furniture was moved so that an alarming quantity of cobwebs and dust could be swept away, along with various pieces of Lego, pens and other detritus that had fallen behind and below it and the whole house was dusted, swept or washed. I fear that some corners hadn’t been this clean for years.

The reason for all this hustle and bustle was not just because it’s spring or that I’ve suddenly changed into a happy homemaker, complete with floral pinny and a duster always in my hand, but because we moved house. Just next door. Into a barn.

This barn, though rather more habitable now.

Exterior view of Essex Barn conversion to house
With scope for developing the garden. On a Keep What You Love basis, the container will have to go as will the farm machinery you can see through the doors and a proper doorstep might be better than using that old pallet.
We’ve only been in a couple of weeks so I’m still at the stage of wondering where I’ve put things. Or whether I kept them or threw them away.

 

Are you a hoarder or a chucker? Nostalgic keeper of the less than lovely or do you only keep what you love?

Snowy flashpost

Snow drifted into ditch and hedge

We have snow. And a chilling wind that makes it feel like -11C. The sort of day that you tuck your shirt into your knickers so there’s no gaps for the wind to whistle in.

The wind is whistling around the house and the sky is grey and leaden with more snow forecast today. On the plus side, I don’t have to commute to work or go out to buy food. A day to stay inside. Who knows, I may even turn on the heating.

#flashpost

The greyness (or otherwise) of February

Trees and fence reflected in pond on misty February day

February can seem so dull, lacking the newness of the year in January or the spring joyfulness of March. The fields and the garden are too wet to work, there are muddy patches to negotiate on every walk and too many days are grey and overcast. It’s the time of year for catching up with all the niggling jobs that have been put off, for repairing machines and buildings and for sorting, cleaning, discarding, recycling and reorganising on the farm and in the house.

Thankfully, there are bright spots to relieve the greyness and tedium.

Farming conferences, farm machinery shows and training days bring a little light relief and we’ve been temporarily transported back into the sparkle and glitz of Christmas at trade shows while ordering our 2018 decorations.

Lichen growing in hedge

Lichen on the bare branches of the hedges brings a splash of colour.

 

Oak tree in winter against blue sky

An ancient oak tree stands proud against the bright blue sky on a sunny day.

 

Tree shadow on farm barn

The shadow from a tree creates a piece of wall art on the side of a barn while …

 

Shadow of gate on stones in garden

… the shadow of a gate suggests the pattern for a parterre garden.

 

Reflection of tree in window

A bright day gives dramatic reflections in the window.

 

Rippled reflection of trees in a window

Looking in through a window, past the rippled reflections of the old glass, to see a piece of ivy still entwined amongst the candles makes me realise that I haven’t taken down all my Christmas decorations.

 

Scattering of snowdrops and crocus underneath apple tree on a late winter afternoon

On a winter’s afternoon, the scattering of snowdrops and crocus underneath the apple tree holds the promise that spring isn’t too far away.

Maybe February isn’t so dull after all.

Why didn’t I know that?

Why didn't I know that?

How many times do you read something and wonder why you didn’t know that before? It happens to me all the time. Sadly, when I share these revelations with my family, they all too often shrug their shoulders and tell me that it’s old news or ask why anyone would want to know or care.

Just in case you’re interested, here are six of my recent discoveries.
Continue reading “Why didn’t I know that?”