Bronze Age bounty

DSCF5994I love to walk up the hill from home to our local stone circle.

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The legend of its origins revolve around a vengeful witch milking a magic cow dry through a sieve to deprive the local people of their only sustenance in a terrible drought. The cow disappeared and the wicked woman was petrified and set within a circle of stones to prevent any more of her mischief.

Although the true origins of the circle aren’t quite as exciting, I find it fascinating that Bronze Age people set 30 hefty dolerite stones in a circle in such a beautiful spot.

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There’s much speculation as to the purpose of their building but no-one really knows for sure why the circle is there. . . and I love that. A 3, 000 year-old mystery, it’s brilliant. The circle itself is a perfectly peaceful place for a spot of pondering – the views alone are quite spectacular. To the east are the Stiperstones, such an iconic Shropshire landmark;

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to the west lies Wales, rolling away towards the sea, the humpback of Cadair Idris and pyramid peak of Snowdon visible on a clear day.

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So, was the circle constructed as a focus for certain rites? Was it a place of ritual and worship, celebration or sacrifice or sport? Did it provide a calendric device, helping to map the solar, lunar or stellar cycles? Did the people gather here to talk or listen, be lectured or entertained, to make laws or pass judgement, to buy, sell or barter, to pray or to party? Had prehistoric men and women sensed something mystical about this spot, a hidden force of nature or energy that called them here? Or, like me, did they just love the view?

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Perhaps one day we’ll have a definitive answer. I hope not. It’s much more fun to wonder.

I wondered, too, about Bronze Age diets. As settled people, did they grow vegetable gardens? A quick spin round the internet revealed evidence of garden plots where cereals were grown (mainly wheat and barley), the possibility of brassicas such as cabbage and roots such as parsnips, and pulses like beans, lentils, bitter vetch and peas. Mmm, wonder if they had the same problem with pea-eating mice as we do?

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Archaeologists have discovered a cup of Bronze Age nettle stew and I found an ‘authentic’ recipe on this website http://www.ancientcraft.co.uk/Archaeology/bronze-age/bronzeage_food.html

As we have quite an abundance of fresh nettle growth in the garden, I decided to give the nettle idea a go with a few modern day tweaks to the recipe. Given the shortage of wild boar in the area, I plumped for a nettle soup based on homemade vegetable stock, flavoured with onion and garlic and thickened with potato rather than barley flour (there’s a great recipe in James Wong’s Grow Your Own Drugs). Young nettles being packed with minerals, vitamins and chlorophyll, this is a great spring tonic after the dark months of winter.

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However, this is not for the faint-hearted: the recipe is dead easy but picking the nettle tops, picking them over and washing them takes some time (DON’T forget to wear gloves). Cook it all down, whizz through the blender, stir in cream and nutmeg and taste . . . to me, it tastes a bit like fresh pea soup, so I stirred in chopped fresh mint from the garden and ate it chilled. Surprisingly good (and very cheap).

 

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Those Bronze Age people knew what they were doing. 🙂

 

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6 thoughts on “Bronze Age bounty

  1. Love the standing stones! We have a few small Bronze Age stone circles up the hill from us, but nothing like that. Once thing is for sure, the Bronze Age gardeners didn’t have to worry about potato blight. As for nettles, I find them easier to handle after drying them first. That seems to take the sting out of them. It’s on my list for tomorrow. I like to have a good supply of nettle tea. It’s great mixed with mint, sage or lemon balm. It somehow makes the other tea herbs richer in flavour. And we’ll make some nettle ale again. Tastes a bit like gooseberry lemonade but with a kick.

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    • Thanks for the tip about nettles in tea, I’ll give that a go. I’ve used them in hair rinses for years but never really got round to the culinary side of things. It’s always interesting to try new things, isn’t it? On which note, those anchocha are starting to worry me a bit – think triffid and you’ve got the picture. 🙂

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      • Ha, ha, somehow that doesn’t surprise me. Weren’t they described as vigorous? Looks like you don’t have to worry about your anchocha harvest in any case. Better come up with some good recipes. I’m having terrible trouble with greenfly this spring. Any tips? I’ve been using washing-up liquid solution and squishing them by hand, but I think I might have to try something harder.

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      • Oh go on, Anja – I dare you! I think the problem is at the moment they are growing up rather than out, once they go outside they should be a bit more manageable (ok, I’m an optimist). They’re interesting things if nothing else. Greenfly are a nuisance and I don’t really have any helpful tips, I usually do what you’re doing plus the usual encouraging predators that feed on them. Have you had a mild spring? There’s no sign of any here yet but no doubt they’re on their way. It’s no help with greenfly whatsoever but I have to say the Natria slug pellets (organic-friendly) I’m trying this year are doing a grand job. Is there a corresponding aphid product, I wonder?

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      • Have you tried anything with pyrethrine in it? There is at least a German product called Spruzit (by Neudorff); it contains natural pyrethrine (occurs naturally in Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium and Chrysanthemum coccineum) and rapeseed oil and can be used in organic gardening.

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