Refreshing nettle cordial 

As you know I’m a huge fan of nettles for their unbeatable health properties so I’ve decided to try making another interesting cordial.

I can’t imagine how it will taste but I’m looking forward to trying it in a week or so.

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A large mixing bowl full of freshly picked nettle tops, use young nettle leaves only

1kg granulated sugar

4 unwaxed lemons, zested and juiced

1l water

1. Bring water to the boil, add the sugar and the zest of all the lemons and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Take the syrup of the heat and leave it to cool down slightly.

2. Add the nettles and the lemon juice and cover with a tea towel.

3. Leave for one week in a cool place but make sure you stir the mixture daily.

4. Strain the liquid through a sieve and store in sterilised bottles in a dark cool place.

 

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Rhubarb cordial

May is the start of the rhubarb season which also means the summer must be on its way.

In Shetland rhubarb seems to grow in every garden and you’ll also often find it around old abandoned crofthouses. Probably because it grows far better than anything else in these windswept islands, as Mary Prior writes in her wonderful Rhubarbaria, it formed an important part in the Shetland diet.

In the past I tried to grow rhubarb but unfortunately with not much success. Until the time when my neighbour dug out a piece of her rhubarb and gave it to me. Since then we’ve been enjoying this super versatile crop in abundance. And to get wonderfully crisp, vividly pink stalks we force the plants in the early spring by placing and old garden incinerator on them.

Rhubarb Collage

Yesterday, for a treat after a day spent by building a raised bed and tidying up the garden, we lifted the bucket and voilà, there it was – the first beautiful crop of the season. Inspired by a photo from Donna Smith’s lovely Instagram feed I decided to make a batch of rhubarb cordial.

Here’s the recipe:

1.5 kg chopped rhubarb

600g caster sugar

4 unwaxed lemons

1 vanilla pod

1. Place the rhubarb, halved vanilla pod and lemon zest in a pan with 100ml water over a low heat. To zest the lemon I use a potato peeler which makes the job really easy. And it fills your kitchen with a wonderful uplifting smell too! Cook slowly until the juices start coming out of the rhubarb, then turn the heat up a little. Continue cooking until completely soft and mushy.

2. Put a sieve in a large mixing bowl and line it with a piece of clean muslin or a tea towel. Ladle in the rhubarb and leave it to drain for several hours or overnight.

3. Measure the juice: for every litre add approximately 600g caster sugar. Pour into a pan on a medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat before it boils. Add lemon juice, pour into sterilised bottles and seal.

4. Serve 1 part cordial with 4 parts sparkling water and don’t forget to add slices of lemon for an extra zing. Or even better – for a special summer treat add it to your Prosecco!

Cheers!

Rhubarb Collage 2

And if you have lots of rhubarb here are some more recipes to try: Rhubarb schnapps, Rhubarb, ginger & orange jam or the slightly more unusual pickled rhubarb recipe by my favourite chef and cookbook author Diana Henry.

Shetland superfoods salad sprinkle

My colleague from A Taste of Shetland Elizabeth inspired me to try to harvest some seaweed. Elizabeth’s post about the experience sounded real fun so last last week, on an evening, I suggested a family trip to the beach… with a bucket and scissors. My five-year-old son was thrilled with a thought of an adventure on a school night and my husband seemed quite intrigued too. So off we went to Minn Beach, in Burra, one of our favourite spots.

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Needless to say there was some doubt in my mind if the the seaweed would be edible but after checking various resources I was assured that seaweed found around the UK shores is suitable to eat. We’ll see, I thought…

Anyway this foraging trip was a good excuse to enjoy a fine night outside doing something slightly different. After getting wet and having lost the feeling in outer extremities I had a small amount of what seemed a quite promising collection of seaweed. I made sure that it was only cut from a growing stem and it would grow again which to me sounds like the marine version of the cut and come again salad.

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After enjoying some stunning views of Foula on the way back, we were happy to get back to the car and head home to thaw out and soak and rinse the seaweed.

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And dry it in the boiler cupboard…

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And after a couple of days there was a bowl of a sea-fragranced dessicated substance…

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Now what to do with it… and then I got an idea – making a salad sprinkle which originally was supposed to be just seaweed and chilli. After several attempts of finding a good method of shredding it (breaking up with hands, cutting up with scissors and whizzing up in a food processor) I had a little amount of beautiful looking pure-sea goodness in a bowl and all over the worktops too.

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I added chilli and dried nettle which I picked at the beach trip too.

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The mix looked absolutely beautiful and thought it could be called a ‘Shetland superfood mix’ since chilli and nettle are both a pretty amazing food stuffs and so is seaweed. But then I thought it would be nice to add something for a bit of crunch and I toasted some golden linseed, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds and for a bit of a twist I added some sumac which is naturally sour and tastes very refreshing.

And voilà here is my newly invented Shetland Superfood Salad Sprinkle.

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And it tasted delicious on some home-grown salad leaves with a drizzle of olive oil.

And the price tag? Just the cost of  a handful of seeds and we got a lot of fun and a small family adventure out of it too. Brilliant!

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Nettle Soup

If you enjoyed reading about nettles yesterday here’s a delicious recipe for you to try.

Nettle soup is eaten mainly during spring and early summer, when young nettle leaves are available.

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Nettle Soup:

A mixing bowl full of freshly picked washed nettles

1 large onion

4 medium sized potatoes

1/2 celeriac (optional)

1 vegetable stock cube

Herbs – whatever fresh herbs you have to hand. I used parsley, chives and dill.

1/2 cucumber or 2 large slices of pickled sliced cucumber (optional)

1 tbs olive oil

Salt and pepper

Sour cream or yoghurt

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1. Peel the potatoes and celeriac and cut into small pieces. Boil for 15 minutes or until soft.

2. Chop the onion finely and fry in olive oil.

3. Drain the potatoes and celeriac and add them to the onions. Add salt and pepper.

4. Remove the leaves from the nettles and add them into the pot discarding the stems as they can be stringy.

5. Add finely chopped herbs and cucumber if you are using it.

6. Add a pint of boiling water and the stock cube (it’s better if you crumble it in the pot as it dissolves better)

7. Boil for three minutes, take the pot off the heat and whizz it up with a hand blender.

8. Serve with yoghurt or sour cream and fresh crusty bread.

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Bon Apetit!

 

Nettles

People think nettle (Urtica dioica) is a stingy, upleasant weed that grows everywhere. But the truth is nettles are very nutritious, full of vitamins, have brilliant medicinal properties and are brilliant detoxifiers. In fact nettles are my seasonal superhero. And as long as you wear gloves nettles are easy to harvest and prepare too. And they are free… And don’t worry, they won’t sting your tongue!

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For the past couple of months I’ve been using freshly harvested raw nettles for making nettle tea and for adding in my morning smoothies almost daily. Probably most people think I’m crazy but I just can’t seem to get enough of this wonderful health-boosting herb. I wonder if it is addictive… 

Stinging nettle is: diuretic, astringent, pectoral, anodyne, tonic, rubefacient, styptic, anthelmintic, nutritive, hermetic, anti-rheumatic, anti-allergenic, decongestant, expectorant, anti-spasmodic, and anti-histamine, anti-lithic/lithotrophic, herpetic, galactagogue, and an anti-histamine… Not bad for a weed!

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Every spring my body seems to crave nettle tea. But the beginnings weren’t easy. Generally I love most herbal teas but at the beginning I really struggled with nettle. I thought it tasted like straw and if the tea went cold it would turn black and taste really unpleasant. Initially I was only interested in the detoxifying properties but there’s so much more to the humble nettle…

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In case you don’t fancy picking and drying your own nettles you can opt for the easy option – Scoop Wholefoods stocks nettle tea and so does Healthcraft.

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Nettle tea has the potential to help with the following ailments:

  • Stimulates the lymph system to boost immunity
  • Relieves arthritis symptoms
  • Promotes a release from uric acid from joints
  • Helps to support the adrenals
  • Promotes milk production in lactating women
  • Relieves menopausal symptoms
  • Helps with menstrual cramps and bloating
  • Helps with respiratory tract disease
  • Supports the kidneys
  • Helps asthma sufferers
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Minimizes skin problems
  • Lessens nausea
  • Cures the common cold

Source: http://www.consciouslifenews.com

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And if you feel tired or your body needs a boost I’d recommend trying to add nettle in you morning smoothie. It will definitely not make it look attractive but I like the taste and I think you can almost feel the energy running through your veins just smelling the mix. My favourite combination is mango, watermelon, blueberries and nettle.

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And guess what – your plants will love nettles too. To make a brilliant fertiliser with good amounts of nitrogen, iron, magnesium and sulphur simply put freshly cut nettles (remove roots) in a bucket, use a large flat stone to keep the foliage down, fill it with water and leave it to ‘brew’ for a few weeks. But I need to warn you – the solution smells really unpleasant and you certainly don’t want to get it on your hands or clothes. Alternatively you can use the plants to activate your compost. 

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– How to use it: Mix the solution with water in a proportion of 1 : 10 (one part nettle solution to ten parts water). Pour the solution directly at the base of the plants where the roots will have quick use of it.

– This “tea” is meant as a supplemental feeding for plants that have a high demand for nourishment, such as tomatoes, leeks, brassicas, cucumbers and courgettes.

There are other things that will appreciate the stinging nettle tea: fruit trees and bushes, roses, annuals and perennial flowering plants.
** It is NOT meant to supplement such plants as onions beans and peas. (source: www.gardenstew.com)