Stinging Nettle – 4 Ways!

With the cool temperature, stinging nettle has been shooting up again. Yippee! Here is what you can do with it.

1. The best ever Winter soup!

Harvest large, dark green, leaves to make the best tasting soup you’ve ever eaten:

  • 4 potatoes
  • 1l chicken/veggie stock
  • 2 cups stinging nettle leaves
  • salt/pepper
  • cream
  • parsley (to garnish)

Boil through, blend smooth, strain (to capture any unwanted fibers), add salt/pepper to taste plus a large dollop of cream and garnish with chopped parsley!

2. Health Tonic

Pick young leaves that you’ll dry for tea or use fresh.

It is known for an extraordinary range of health benefits… one of the most comprehensive health tonic Nature packed in one plant!

And with a teaspoon of honey it’s morish!

3. Compost tea

Prepare a large swathe of stinging nettle leaves and stems drowned in a 20-liter bucket of water. Macerate for a few days with a lid on. Stir from time to time. Strain liquid when you see bubbles rise up to the surface.

Warning… should you leave it to macerate/ferment too long, the mixture will get, well, rather pungent! Don’t worry. Leave it alone until the smell goes away… it will still be nutritious for your garden.

Used on or around plants ahead of a predicted very hot summer this will help plants get over the stress of heatwaves (use as a drench or as a foliar spray – both diluted at 1:10).

4. Stock feed

Harvest and dry leaves and stalks to feed your livestock for the best looking egg yolk, the creamiest cow’s milk or the healthiest looking horse, rabbit, guinea pig, donkey, goat, pig…

Stinging nettle is a weed. A miracle weed.
A wondrous plant that feeds us, the land and our animals.
Don’t glyphosate it.
Use it.
And wear gloves!

Half of it is fossil fuel

A sprig of mint is found wilting in a single-use plastic punnet. The supermarket discards it, and with it, hundreds of other punnets.

Straight to landfill.

The mint was grown in Victoria – fertilised – irrigated – harvested – washed – dried – prepared in 50g bundles – packed in a plastic punnet and labelled.

Six punnets are packed into a specially made cardboard box, complete with company branding and colourful printing.

Everything would have gone to landfill. Nothing would be sorted into “recyclable” and “compostable”.

For 50g of mint, there is 50g of packaging.

Who’s at fault here? The supermarket? Us, consumers? The System?

At work, we help an organisation divert waste from landfill. We use some of the produce (if it is salvageable) and in the case of the mint, well, we unpacked and sorted the waste. The mint went into our compost. The recyclables… in the yellow bin. Sigh. Such a waste.

Climate change is real folks. We cannot just talk about it anymore. We must do everything we can to stop consuming so much fossil energy. Plastic is a fantastic product but it is now time to emancipate ourselves from it. Starting by not buying it. Supermarkets will follow us. Because, let’s face it, we cannot rely on the System to get us out of trouble.

Citrus glut

I know most of you have a lemon tree by the front door, maybe a Tahitian lime too, and mandarins, oranges, grapefruits, and keffir limes?! Now is the time to get ready to process all these goodies, because, clearly, we cannot give them all away to work colleagues, or worse, let them rot on the ground (that would be disastrous for the next few years of fruit fly control).

Here is what we do to manage our glut of citrus at the farm:

–          Squeeze and store in ice cube trays (perfect for lime/lemon) or plastic bottles (orange, grapefruits juice)

–          Slice and freeze on a biscuit tray then once frozen, transfer to a Ziploc bag

–          Make a citrus cleaner by covering the peels/zests in a solution of 2 parts water to 1 part sugar. Let it macerate for two weeks, then transfer the liquid to a plastic bottle for further use (filter well through a tea towel first to remove any debris that could clog up a spray bottle. I use it diluted 1 part water to 1 part citrus cleaner in a spray bottle for kitchen bench tops, bathrooms, etc.)

–          Freeze whole fruits (mandarins, oranges) for a year long supply of ‘fresh’ fruits for that yummy whole mandarin cake you do so well!

–          Make a marmalade or jelly. See recipe below.

–          Swap!

Citrus Jelly

Citrus juice – 2kg

Sugar – 2kg

Pectin – 25g

1.      Wash fruits, squeeze citrus and reserve the juice.

2.       In a muslin cloth, wrap the peels/zests, gather the four corners and make a knot. Let it stand in the juice overnight.

3.       The next day, remove muslin bag and squeeze as much liquid from it as possible.

4.       Bring the juice to a low boil, then add sugar.

5.       Bring it to a rolling boil for 15 minutes then add pectin and return to the boil for another 10-15 minutes.

6.       Check if jelly is set (put a teaspoon on a frozen plate and check it gels up or not). Cook some more if needed.

7.       Turn heat off, and once mixture is not boiling anymore transfer into jars. Put the lid on and flip the jar onto its lid (to prevent any air to be sucked in when the vacuum is created inside the jar))

An edible solution for shaded gardens

Since I commenced my exploration of the never-boring world of edible gardening, I have struggled to find a green vegetable that replaces spinach (which refuses to grow well here. It beats me!).

Silverbeet is an acceptable alternative but I can’t bring myself to like the taste at all. So I kept looking for that spinach-like plant that would taste good and that would tolerate growing in average soils, in the heat and in the shade. Well I found it!

Please meet Okinawa Spinach, a member of the chrysanthemum family, native to Asia. It has striking green and purple leaves that once cooked have a rather nutty flavour reminiscent to pine nuts. It grows well from cuttings but it is slow to take. Once it has taken up though, it produces an abundance of large leaves that can be lightly sautéed or steamed.

Okinawa Spinach

Okinawa Spinach is a perennial plant. So you only have to plant it once. I had two specimen growing simultaneously here at the farm… just to try out: one was planted in the shade, in rich but excessively free draining soils in the top garden, and one was planted in full sun in an irrigated bed in our bottom veggie patch. The one in the shade thrives. The one in the sun withered.  

Happy gardening!

Massive Attaque!

Fall landed on our piece of Earth. And the rain came. Lots of it.

Then we blinked and the grass turned yellow?
But wait a sec… it rained. It should have gone Kaboom!!! green explosion? Nope. It’s yellow and we can even see the soil underneath.

Now I’m on all four on the lawn. I inspect, Inspecteur Clusot style. Darn! Armyworms in military formations (well, not quite), munching away the grass, marching to new land (yeeek, my gardeeeeeeen!!!!!!!), their mandibles forward, their appetite growling and insatiable.

Then came Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), a bacteria present in the gut of caterpillar that I (conveniently) bought in the form of a powder (Dipel) ready to mix in a spray bottle.

Yes, I could have made my own Dipel… It’s dead easy in fact. See recipe below.
And yes, I could have let my chickens hunt them… or wild birds in fact.
Don’t judge me! There are many reasons why I didn’t do any of the above…

DIY Dipel recipe:

  • Pick as many caterpillars as you can.
  • Drown them in a bucket of water.
  • Blitz them with a barmix or similar.
  • Strain and dilute in a spray bottle.
  • Spray over your crops/ornamentals affected by caterpillars.

I sprayed Dipel on the visible periphery of that infestation, up to 5m outward, and all inside the infested area. Now we wait. The bacteria should curb the appetite of these voracious caterpillars and then they go for a long sleep. Only to feed the soil with their decaying bodies.

Freedom

What is freedom? To many, this is the state of not being enslaved or imprisoned. To others, it is to not suffer restriction of movement, action, thought or speech.

To me, freedom is the extravagant amount of food I pluck out from the ground and that I later serve for dinner to my family.
Freedom is expressed when I cook with the seasons, with the harvests, not with a recipe torn from a fancy magazine.
Freedom is when I consciously shut down to advertisings, trends and what the Norm expects and I don’t buy what They tell me I need.

Freedom is the underlining theme that has developed here at the farm for me. Why do I grow food? Why do I boycott some brands, many food items, and some activities (like watching TV!)? Why do I make soap, apple cider vinegar, yogurt, jams, sauerkraut and pickles. Why on earth do I darn my jeans?

It’s not that I am poor (neither am I rich). I am not a dreamer or an artist. None of that. I just revel in the pleasure of frugality. I roll in it. I squeal in delight at making do with what I have, and, guess what, I live well!

Check out the recently published book, The Art of Frugal Hedonism. It is an addictively good read that helps you reclaim your freedom. Plus, the authors are so darn well articulate and witty, a feast for the mind!