27 novembre 2011

The biggest surprise

The biggest surprise was that nasturtium leaves and stalks are really delicious when cooked. (No, really.) Steamed and then tossed in olive oil with garlic. So the free food's going well! On top of all the veggies and numerous ways of eating home-grown mushrooms, we had (well, the blokes had) wild boar sausages the other night, courtesy of Mario. He and his posse spent last weekend conducting a concerted campaign against the boar that are ravaging not only our veg patch but also the just-sown fields of the farmers round here. They ended up with three boar. In the case of wild boar my normally strongly anti-hunting ethic goes into reverse, as these are animals that have no natural predators here and the population has just gone crazy since they were reintroduced a while back. They do a huge amount of agricultural damage. My hopes that Mario's efforts would end the digging-up of our garden were dashed, however, as this week the beasties dug over the broad bean bed and trampled much of the broccoli and greens. Deeply upsetting. I'm setting up an electric fence round the veg patch now, and if that doesn't keep them off it'll be watchtowers, searchlights and landmines.

11 novembre 2011

In these hard and gloomy times

nasturtium salad
In these hard and gloomy times I'm thinking it will be fun to try for a while to eat as much as possible from our own production or even wild food. Fun, plus a relief for the bank balance. We've got a freezer packed with food from the summer, we have veggies coming along in the veg patch (if we can save them from the wild boar), and there are still a few (very few) edible wild plants to pick. In fact, if I remembered anything I learnt from the mushroom course I did a few years ago (to gather mushrooms in Italy you officially have to have a 'patentino' or licence, which you get by attending a course and then renewing it yearly) then I'd go mushrooming, but what I principally recall is how frighteningly similar the edible ones look to the deadly poisonous ones. Oh, and how one toxic mushroom tricks you before killing you, giving you immediate and severe symptoms of food-poisoning from which you quickly recover, only to be struck down a few weeks later, by which time you have multiple organ failure and you — die. Which celestial joker thought that one up?

But I digress. For we do have mushrooms — home-grown ones, real beauties. I bought a kit, basically a sort of spore-impregnated bale, and it sits in the cantina putting out amazing growths of pleurotus (oyster mushrooms). Far too many, in fact, as we can't get through them all (the Boy doesn't even like them) and I don't know how to preserve mushrooms. For now I've decided to head back to the 1970s and make cream of mushroom soup, and if it's nice then I'll make a load and freeze it.

And speaking of soup, the warm autumn has given us a good crop of nettles in the hedgerows, and as everyone knows, nettle soup is The Best. Tasty, health-giving and absolutely free. Some people may mock (and you know who you are) but they obviously need a little help in appreciating the finer things in life. I can give that help. Nettle risotto, anyone?