In all candour it was not me that spotted the potential market. My daughter pointed out to me that this country now imports Italian nettles. Obvious, post Brexit, the nettle market will collapse, and it was at this point I felt duty bound to step into the breach!
I did my market research and discovered that they are indeed available. For £22.95 you can get a kilo of nettles!
The problem is that there are ‘nettles’ and ‘nettles’. Take those growing in this picture.
Well, actually don’t take them, they’re a valuable crop. As you can see, here we have a mixed planting with stitchwort. Even if you don’t pick any of the stitchwort with the nettles, we believe that grown together it adds a number of subtle notes to the flavour of the nettles which you’ll find tickle the cultivated palate. I would recommend that you use these in a risotto which has hints of salmon.
Obviously some prefer a stronger nettle, with richer more pronounced flavours. I’d recommend these for fritters, ideally served with banana and pork.
Alternatively you might want a younger nettle, grown at a wider spacing, to ensure that each plant is aerated properly. This gives you far more subtle flavours. Also people have described them as ‘bubbly’, and ‘sparkling.’ Surely the perfect pizza topping.
But then how do you bring them into the kitchen? Obviously the sloppy and careless can just despatch some expendable minion with shears to clip a few plants. But the great Bartolomeo Scappi is said by some to have taken the greatest care. On nights of the full moon he would slip from the arms of his mistress, and wearing only thigh length boots and a dressing gown would forage for his nettles. He would cut them with silver scissors and would carry them home in a silken bag.
Alternatively, Marie-Antoine Carême is said to have insisted that nettles should only be picked in the rain. She shunned bladed implements and instead she would pluck the tips and carry them home in a glass bowl.
Anyway I’ve given a lot of thought to the whole business. Nettles are far more complicated than you might think, and it would be far too easy to fall short of the demands of a sophisticated clientele. Thus and so I have decided that the way forward is to bow to the experience of those who know.
Hence, by appointment, we allow ‘pick your own’. You can come and take as many of our organic and artisan nettles as you want. They are thus absolutely fresh, yours for a merely nominal £25 a kilo.
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As a reviewer wisely commented, “Another excellent compendium of observations from the back of Mr. Webster’s quad bike in which we learn a lot more about sheep, border collies and people. On the whole, I think the collies come out of it best. If you fancy being educated on the ways of the world, with a gentle humour and a nice line in well observed philosophy, you could do a lot worse than this.”