Caught by the River

Allotment Watch: May

Nina Walsh | 23rd May 2011

by Nina Walsh

I have a grim confession that I dearly hope at least one person, somewhere will learn from…..I have lost sleep over this and rather than just keep shamefully quiet, I hope that if I make my confession now it could prevent the same thing from happening again (and perhaps alleviate some of the guilt I am carrying around with me).

On visiting my humble pond development last week to check on the tadpoles, I noticed a headless tit caught in the pond netting. It’s beak floating on the water. It had probably popped in for a drink or a bath but had got entangled in all the sloppy excess netting that I had hastily thrown over the pond to prevent the frog spawn from being got at. I felt terrible and asked Great Mother Nature for forgiveness and for the spirit of the tit to protect other tits in the area from the same fate due to novice pond developers. Needless to say, the netting has now been cut to the exact size, slightly elevated with all the excess removed allowing the smaller birds to wander beneath and the frogs to hop in and out freely. By elevating the net above the water in this way it will prevent debris from falling into the pond and stop the larger birds from landing on the surface to eat the tadpoles. Hindsight is a great thing….

Love is in the air with all the birds and the beasties getting it on and the tilling and turning of the soil over the winter months is now beginning to make sense as the first of my lovingly nurtured seedlings are dibbed into position. I pray that Jack Frost has left the building!

My window sills are now free for a new set of seed pots, the main crop Pink Fur Apple potatoes are trenched down and the first earlies, earthed up. The Pomodoro tomatoes seem to be doing well in their new position planted amongst the asparagus. These two guys are great companions as the tomatoes help repel the asparagus beetle and fill in the bed nicely once the asparagus has been harvested. Next in are the marigolds as these deter the harmful nematodes from attacking the tomatoes. Like most good logistics, it’s all about putting the right crew together!

Cream of Nettle Soup

I can’t let the spring pass without including a recipe for nettle soup. Lurking in the shadier areas you can probably catch the last of the young, tender nettles before they begin to flower. Nettles are a great way to rid the body of toxins, not only do they cleanse the blood, restore the digestive system and are a powerful all round tonic but without them many butterfly species would have nowhere to lay their eggs.
Nettles can be used in any recipe to replace spinach but my personal favourite is nettle soup (although nettle and blue cheese lasagne is a bit of a winner too!).

This is a really quick and simply recipe for nettle soup. You will need a pair of gloves to harvest the young nettle tops and make sure you don’t collect them from a roadside as they will be polluted from traffic fumes.
Pinch off the young tops of the plants only and collect a shopping bag full (about 500g) and wash thoroughly in cold water.


2 Potatoes
2 onions
4 cloves of garlic
A bag of stinging nettle tops
2 pints vegetable or chicken stock
A handful of fresh parsley
A handful of fresh oregano
A good grate of nutmeg
2 tablespoons of crème fresh
Black pepper


Chop the potatoes, onion and garlic and sauté them in butter.
When the onion starts to soften and the potato is forming a slight crust, add the nettles.
Now add your stock and grate in the nutmeg.
Give it all a good stir and let it bubble for about 20 minutes until the potato is soft.
Last to add are the fresh herbs and the crème fresh.
With an electric hand blender, blend until smooth and season to taste.

Mrs Bun xx

Read Nina’s previous columns here