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.
A photo I took for World Pinhole Photography Day, an event that just happened to coincide with my first stinging nettle foraging expeditition of the season. I am an accomplished multi-tasker.
I went out foraging stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) last weekend. I harvested young leaves for eating and have set aside most to be made into a liquid fertilizer for my plants. Stinging nettle is very high in magnesium and iron making it good for both your bod and your plants’ too.
I went out partially prepared with snips and a collecting bag but forgot my gloves and was stuck slowly and delicately lifting each snipped piece into the bag wielding the sharp clippers like tongs. I suffered a few small “bites” to my hand after growing impatient with the delicate procedure but the early season foliage doesn’t seem to be as nasty as late-season plants because I didn’t need to seek out foliar antidotes (Rubbing the leaves of dock, mullein, jewelweed, or plantain on your skin will neutralize the sting. It is said that the cure is always growing within eyesight and in my experience that has proven to be the case everytime.)
I’m thinking of going out again before the plants mature. I’ve become intrigued by the idea of making up a batch of nettle soup after seeing it done by school kids reliving WW2 times on the BBC show Evacuation. Why yes, I do know that I’m a geek.
Davin and I went on a dandelion picking mission at the community garden the other day, harvesting what we thought was enough to make the dandelion Hortopita recipe. As we picked, I repeatedly muttered that I didn’t think we had enough. I went to the garden without reviewing the recipe for amounts but I was certain that whatever we picked would boil down to a smallish blob. It turns out that this 9″ wide bowl holds what does not come even close to 2 lbs of dandelion greens. In fact, what you see here is more like just over half a pound.
Lacking the correct amount of greens called for slashing the size of the finished Hortopita significantly and reducing the ingredients accordingly. I don’t think I have ever in my life followed a recipe exactly as written so not one to be deterred we marched ahead rather than waiting another day until we could go collect more. It still came off famously! I have never before boiled dandelion greens. They smelled surprisingly like spinach while boiling and completely lost their bitterness in the process. They were so delicious on their own as a boiled green that I plan to continue harvesting them with vigor for what remains of the growing season and eating them as-is with a dash of salt and sprinkle of oil.
The Hortopita itself was light and crispy on the outside, salty and fresh on the inside. In the future I will try adding eggs for protein and supplementing with other greens or veggies as I don’t expect to harvest enough dandelion leaves at any one time to make the full-sized pie.