Picking brambles: freely available fruit

I notice that fruit on the bramble that’s happily set root in my garden is about to ripen. Free fruit, with absolutely no effort to me. Great. No way is it a weed.

I’ll have lots more too, soon. Near where I live, there is a great big quarry, which has been overrun by brambles. Remarkably last year, two weeks after they started to ripen, there was still an abundance of blackberries to pick. I had seen a few Polish guys having a go, and many of the good berries were out of my reach. But there were still plenty to be had, and they are totally free.

I picked 1kg of brambles in total. I froze about a quarter of these, made another quarter into a smoothie, and have made apple and blackberry jam with the rest. I’ll put up the recipes at some point. This year I’d like to make blackberry cordial, too. The latter two are a great way to reuse jam jars and bottles, part of my quest to have no waste.

You’ve got to watch out for the creepy crawlies, and give the fruit a good wash. I avoided all brambles that were lower than the height of a dog, even if they were particularly plump… for obvious reasons.

It did make my hands go purple, but the dog loved prowling around while I was busy!

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Salmon with nettles & roasted veg

I just had the most delicious meal… made with nettles!

I got about 15 nettle leaves (fairly young ones), washed and chopped, and put them into an aluminium foil parcel. I added about 3 tbsp. of white wine, a glug of olive oil, plus lots of salt n pepper, and then put a frozen salmon fillet on top. I rubbed about 2 tsp of English mustard into the top of the salmon, and wrapped it all up. I popped it into the oven with some potatoes, artichokes and parsnips roasting in thyme alongside it. The fish took about 20 mins (it was a small fillet) and the veg a bit longer… it was delicious!

Food from weeds: Nettle soup

I’ve always liked the idea of making food out of garden weeds – I don’t use weeds for compost so usually they end up on the rubbish tip. I’ve liked the idea, but have not been sure about the reality!

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So I decided to be brave and try out this recipe from Good Food magazine, using the very healthy looking nettles that are sprouting around my garden. I only got stung once when picking them. I picked about 200g, which was the leaves of about 8-10 tall nettles.

It’s basically a simple vegetable soup: potatoe, carrot, leek and onion with nettles. I used milk instead of cream. The recipe just wilts the nettles before blending but I wasn’t so brave, I gave it a good 5-10 minute boil after the nettles had gone in. Although I washed them thoroughly, I was a bit nervous about what had been in the garden. A bit silly, all our food ultimately comes from a garden, with bugs, animals and all sorts running around there.

The soup does not give off a very nice smell, to be honest. It tastes very similar to spinach soup, I think. Not bad at all!

Apparently nettles are nutritious – with vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. That’s pretty good for a weed…

English: Damselfly perched on nettle The wild ...

English: Damselfly perched on nettle The wild plants and weeds growing beside the path are visited by a great number of insects; the iridescent blue of a damselfly, taking a very short rest, is contrasting vividly with the green of the nettles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)