|Project by Radicalfarmergal||posted 1334 days ago||1514 views||0 times favorited||17 comments|
We are still in the first half of April, before the deciduous trees have grown their new leaves or our tulips have blossomed. We still have a month before our average last frost date. Our traditional first harvest, asparagus, is just starting to poke up from the soil, but we have already enjoyed our first home-grown harvest of the season!
Early this afternoon, my youngest son and I walked down to our beautiful, healthy and lush patch of Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica). Due to their unfriendly, annoying, stinging nature, I have been trying to eradicate this patch for four years by pulling out the plants, chopping them with a scythe, letting the chickens and goats have unrestricted access to them – all to no avail. The patch is thicker, bigger and healthier than when we moved into this old farm house.
Armed with gloves and a pair of scissors, my son carefully harvested a bowl of the nettle tops, just the top three or four inches. (He was having so much fun he wanted to do all the harvesting.) We brought our treasure up to the house, carefully rinsed them in a colander and sautéed them in a dab of butter. We sprinkled them with a little Greek seasoning and, with a bit of trepidation, ate them. My son preferred his alone. I chopped my portion into small pieces and tucked them inside a cheese and nettle omelet. To our surprise, they really did taste delicious! They tasted a little like spinach but with almost a nutty flavor mixed in as well. Those nettles have earned a place on our little farm.
Remember my book review on perennial vegetables? That is where I first learned about how healthy and delicious nettles can be if they are harvested when they are young and tender and cooked properly. Basically, nettles need to be steamed or sautéed until wilted to remove the sting before eating. As plants, nettles are dynamic accumulators, retrieving nutrients from the earth and storing them in the leaves and stems. When we eat the nettles, we benefit from the stored protein, vitamin A and any other minerals the plant was able to extract from the soil. There are many recipe ideas for nettles on the Internet. Probably any recipe that includes cooked spinach would work just as well with the substitution of nettles.
If any of you have access to a patch of wood nettles or stinging nettles, either wild or cultivated, gather up your courage, some gloves and scissors, and go harvest some too!
-- "To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves." M. Gandhi