Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Gardening inevitably means displacing.  The order which we are little by little, two-forward-one back, achieving, the battle against weeds and pests in which we seem of late to be making some gains, will always push something out, though one hope it also creates space and opportunity for something else.

The black polythene which we use fairly freely to tame unruly bits of ground we can't cope with at a given time, never seems to me to be very friendly towards wildlife, yet when I cleared one length of it away in order to green the soil it had covered, along with the stone holding it down which had evidently served as a thrush's anvil, bejewelled with fragments of russet and yellow stones, the enormous fat shiny millipede that wriggled off, and the large greenish black toad which glared at me with its coppery eyes before shuffling backwards into a hole in the ground, there were these remains of someone's larder, a vole or field  mouse.  The shells all seemed to be holed and empty.

I'm afraid they rather put me in mind of ossuaries!

Stinging nettles are good for butterflies, of course, and I too, find it hard to see a patch of their tender, juicy, formic acid bearing spring tops without fancying a bowlful of nettle soup.  Fortunately, though it is much reduced, there is still a healthy little stand of them in one corner.

I love nettle soup, collecting the nettles, making it, eating it, the whole matter of getting one over on something that wants to get one over on me, dodging the stings, wearing rubber gloves to pick them, washing them at arm's length, then plunging them into boiling water and neutralising their mischief.

I used also to enjoy the shock factor of telling people I ate stinging nettles, but I gather nettle soup, (and foraged wild food in general, which used to confer a pleasing impression of eccentricity and boldness upon those of us who enjoyed it) has now become quite trendy.  My youngest brother, who betimes indulges in a bit of fashionable restaurant eating in the UK, went last year to a much vaunted eatery somewhere in the West Country, where he was served (along with deep fried sand eels, which it seems to me would be robbing the puffins...) nettle soup with snails in.  Whether this was intentional or simply because they omitted to wash the snails off before preparing it I don't know.


zephyr said...

what a whimsical web. Clearly your spider friend had a jolly time of it!

If i am lucky enough to find myself in the West Country at a fashionable eatery contemplating soup i will be sure to ask if i should expect snails in my bowl. i want to be forewarned about these things...so i could make another selection.
Actually, thinking of the West Country makes me hope to make it back ...and one day sitting in a humble-but-fine establishment serving their own homemade banoffee pie.
i digress.
But it was my (so far) one and only trip to the West Country when i was introduced to that decadent and delectable confection.

YourFireAnt said...

I eat stinging nettles too. I even wrote a poem about them.

They are a springtime treat to me.


the polish chick said...

we had them in a sauce last year at a slow food event. it was alright, but my fondest memories of stinging nettles are of whacking each other about the legs with bunches of them - i believe it was a favourite pastime of the kids that roamed the town i grew up in. what fun! and, it turns out, good for arthritis: no wonder i never suffered from it when i was 8!

Anonymous said...

"the whole matter of getting one over on something that wants to get one over on me. . ." (Love this line!) And now I want to eat stinging nettles, although I'm not sure where I'd find them.

Sheila said...

Ossuaries came to my mind, too. Will never forget the one I saw in Rome.

iserve pharmacy said...

Well this is the worse part of gardening that's why i already found something else to do, thanks anyway. good luck with that.