By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Apr 11 2017 08:00AM
At this time of year we start to see some real growth in the garden. Unfortunately for the aesthetic horticulturalist, that often means weeds rather than seedlings.
In April you really need to stay on top of things in the garden if you want to avoid undesirable interlopers. The lack of frosts and plenty of rain means its boom time for garden weeds.
But there is an upside if, like us, you find it difficult to keep things tidy in the garden. As well as being much better for wildlife, you'll occasionally get a crop that you didn't intend to grow. One in particular comes into season in early spring, and if you can bear to leave a small patch of them growing in your garden, they'll provide you with your first green (and free) meal of the year.
We are, of course, talking about stinging nettles. The first young shoots will have started to grow in mid-February so by now you should have a decent, harvestable crop.
You'll need a plastic bag and a good pair of gloves. To get flavoursome and delicate leaves, only pick the first few centimetres of the plant tips. As with most freshly picked, green leaves, nettles will keep for a few days in the fridge.
There is a definite spinachy tang to nettle leaves and they can be used in most recipes as a substitute (although you should probably avoid using them in salad.) In terms of accompaniments, you'll find that nettles have an affinity for nutmeg and most recipes will be perked up by a fresh grating. You can also make a simple, refreshing nettle tea from half a dozen fresh leaves left to infuse in boiling water for a few minutes.