Monthly Archives: April 2012

Spring Green Tonic

Having been out for a successful forage yesterday and having spent some time today propagating herbs in my garden, I was in the mood for making soup!

I’ve been reading a lot about the detoxifying properties of wild spring greens and I’ve known for a while that most garden herbs have many medicinal, as well as culinary benefits. I wanted to make something tasty and healthy, using as little shop-bought produce as possible.

The fruits of yesterday’s foraging session (near Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve) were a big batch of Garlic Mustard, a large bunch of Crow Garlic and some Dead Nettles (we also found Crayfish, along with Crayfish eggs, both of which were edible but the animal was a little small and I wasn’t desperate enough to take the eggs). I complimented these wild spring greens with some cleavers & nettle tops from the garden, as well as a couple of handfuls of fresh herbs. In the end, the only things I used for the soup that I hadn’t grown or foraged myself were stock, oil, black pepper, potatoes & onions (and the latter two I have growing, they just aren’t ready yet).

The recipe went something like this:

5 small potatoes
3 small white onions
1 large red onion
4 bulbs/stalks of crow garlic (chopped)
1 bunch of cleavers
1 bunch of garlic mustard
1 small bunch of nettle tops
1 small bunch of dead nettles
2 handfuls of chopped fresh herbs (I used sage, lemon balm, thyme, rosemary & fennel)
Vegetable stock
Salt & pepper

As per usual with a soup, I sweated the potatoes and onions for 10 mins to start (I added the crow garlic about half way through, to start it softening, as it was quite tough). I then added the hot stock & simmered the soup for 10 mins, before adding the greens and simmering for another 10. I then blended it all up with a hand blender and I served it straight away, finished with garlic croutons (home made, of course!) and chopped chives (from the garden again!).

I liked it. I wasn’t in love with it. There was a bitterness to the aftertaste, which could be attributed to a couple of things. I left the stalks on the dead nettles, as they looked so young and green, but they may have been bitter. I have also read that Crow Garlic can have an unpleasant aftertaste, although I didn’t notice it when trying it raw. Anyway, it was nice, just not delicious and what it lacked in refined flavour, it more than made up for in heartiness and healthiness.

Still to find some Ransoms, which is what I was actually looking for yesterday when I stumbled on the alternative Allium bounty 🙂

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Lolly Rosso

I’ve had some old lolly bottles kicking around at work for some time, waiting for a chance to reuse them in the garden. I was initially thinking cloches for little seedlings but I saw a YouTube video on Facebook of some guy’s hanging garden, made of  waste water bottles and was inspired to do some planting in them.

I was thinking of doing something like the hanging system in the link above but don’t really have anywhere stable enough outside to erect it, so I had to rethink.

I decided to keep the principle of turning plastic bottles into pots for salad leaf and set to work with a stanley knife.

I first knocked some holes in the lids with a hammer and nail. This was tricky, as the plastic lid was very brittle and the holes became cracks. If I had a drill, it would have been very useful at this point! I then turned the bottles upside down (lid down) and cut D-shaped windows in each side with the stanley knife.

I filled the bottles about half full,  to two inches below the bottom of the D-shaped windows, with home made compost and vermiculite. I then sowed some rocket and baby leaf salad mix in them.

Three of the bottle planters are used like normal pots and stand on my table in the garden. I had a bit of wire kicking about in my tool box, so I made a handle for the forth planter, making it an individual hanging version, which can hang on the trampoline frame.

Finally, to protect the roots of the salad from sunlight, I painted the bottom half of the bottles with some blue tile paint that I had kicking around in the shed.

With the remaining plastic above the soil level acting like a mini greenhouse,  the seeds germinated really quickly and all four of the planters are already getting full of little seedlings.