In the spirit of Be Nice to Nettles Week, we tried our hand at a batch of nettle soup using the site recipe as a basis. Let me tell you that a half pound of nettles is a whole lot more than you’d expect. I harvested enough young nettles (stems included) to fill a small plastic bag however once the stems and not so great parts were removed it came out to just slightly over 1/4 pound. Here’s what that looks like:
Just a reminder to protect your hands with gloves at any point in the process that involves touching any part of the fresh nettles including leaves and stems. The plant will lose its sting once cooked, but can get you at anytime when fresh, even when soaking under water.
The recipe seemed a little too bland so I chopped and added half a small onion before adding the nettles. We did not have sour cream or yoghurt on hand so I garnished mine with bits of smoked trout bought at my local farmer’s market. The soup was really good, tasting very much like vichyssoise. In fact I ate the leftovers cold. The geek in me was very satisfied that a portion of this meal was collected/foraged from the out-of-doors. Over the last year I’ve come back full circle to an early interest in wild foods and edible weeds that I haven’t really indulged since I was a teenager foraging for plants with “Edible Weeds of Canada” tucked under my arm.
Next up: Garlic Mustard.
I first discovered stinging nettle one day while book shopping on Harbord Street, a popular used book area of Toronto. One of the stores had a selection of herbs sitting out front. Anyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for herbs and am impulsive about touching them. You should see me at the end of our yearly Herb Fair meet-ups. All of those smells in one place! I am a maniac!
So there I am happily rubbing each plant and lifting my fingers to my face repeatedly soaking in a variety of delicious herbal scents. And then I rub the stinging nettle. Let’s just say the experience has taught me to be patient and observe with my eyes BEFORE making contact with my fingers or god forbid my nose! It has also taught me a new level of respect for plants. That initial shock prompted me to look into this unassuming yet powerful plant, and I have since come to appreciate it as a very valuable and fantastic herb.
May 16-27 is “Be Nice to Nettles Week.” The site has a lot of interesting facts and tid bits from a recipe for nettle soup to information about the wildlife the plant sustains. Learning about stinging nettle might not win you over completely but perhaps warm you up just a little to this painful herb.
I spent Saturday doing hardcore gardening work including prepping the fire-escape windowboxes for planting. On Sunday afternoon I purchased a few plants for the boxes and decided to get them planted up rather than wait for additional plants. Check out what I found buried by our friendly neighbourhood squirrel:
A sign of the times. Last year peanuts, this year an entire slice of pizza!
I know it was a new addition because not only was it still intact but I had just dug that spot yesterday. There was also evidence of squirrel digging on the other side of the box.
The location of the squirrel pizza.
My new favourite morning tea mug. Available in your standard mug size and your hard-core-caffeine-drinker large mug size.
I suppose it was about time.
I’ve been receiving requests for information on starting a community garden since posting about my experience working with the H.O.P.E Community Garden Group here in Toronto. Starting a community garden is an awesome experience but it is also quite an undertaking. Starting a garden is as much about the physical labor involved in building the garden space as it is about building community and working co-operatively with a sense of commitment and purpose. My experiences with The H.O.P.E Garden have been so positive because of the efforts of project organizer Shannon Thompson of Greenest City, a Toronto based non-profit that has gone above and beyond in organizing one of the most well-functioning teams I have ever had the pleasure to work alongside.
Of course most of us don’t have the benefit of a team experienced in community building and the practical ins-and-outs of community garden organizating. In that case I would recommend that anyone looking to start a community garden in their area pick up a copy of “How Does Our Garden Grow?: A Guide to Community Garden Success” published by FoodShare and written by Laura Berman. This is an excellent and comprehensive resource that outlines many of the issues that you will face when starting a garden from leadership, site design and selection, to raising money and establishing gardener expectations. There is even a practical gardening section for beginners covering topics such as companion planting and composting.