Saturday, March 10, 2012

Heralding of Spring

Spring is coming closer, and tonight we set our clocks forward in anticipation of more daylight.  The Varied Thrush began its odd, buzzy trill at my bedroom window a month ago, and the buds of the red flowering currant are flush and ready to pop, so I know that the Rufus hummingbird will soon be here, chilly and hungry from her vacation in warmer climes.
Today I took a walk down to a lovely watershed near my home, in search of a precious green that I always crave at this time of year: the Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioicaThis utilitarian plant has been used by many cultures over centuries to cure just about anything that ails a person, and some of it's medicinal uses have been borne out by modern medical research.  Additionally, nettles can be prepared and spun to make a sturdy yarn, and then woven into a cloth that is more sturdy than flax (linen) and softer than hemp; so it's the perfect plant in my mind. 

The fact that it also happens to be delicious is what makes me go into the woods, searching for it every March. 

I like nettles steamed (which takes away the sting) and served with a little butter, but it is also very good in soups, or any other way that one might enjoy spinach or a sturdy green (except for raw).  The flavor can be compared to spinach, but with a somewhat woolly texture, and a brighter green flavor.  My husband enjoys it, too, although when we ate it tonight he said, "This is delicious, " and then added sweetly, "would you like to finish mine?"  He claimed chivalry because he could see how much I was enjoying mine, but in truth I think he felt skittery about the possibility of getting a sting.

If you want to harvest your own nettles for supper, be sure to have a pair of scissors, and clip only the tops of new plants (older plants become tough and stringy).  Be careful to avoid being stung; you can wear gloves or be decidedly timid in your approach.  If you get stung, you won't die, but you won't soon forget the experience either.  Rinse the nettles and put them above boiling water to steam until just bright green.  Add a little butter if you wish and enjoy! 


Lilyworks said...

Amazing. I learn from you all the time!

Kimberly C. said...

I found nettles growing spontaneously by the kids' sandbox last year. Have lived here 10 years and never seen that! I collected them to make tea.

What do you think about sauteeing in better and garlic? Would it get rid of the stings?

Colleen MacDonald said...

The application of heat of any kind, or drying the leaves will take away the sting, so sauteeing would be a great way to prepare nettles. I'll have to do this next week when I go foraging again! Good idea, Kimberly!

picciolo said...

I think I would be worried about a sting too, but they do certainly look delicious! And hooray for spring, it is on its way here too although we have to wait a couple of weeks yet for the clocks to change

Jo Ro said...

I had no idea you could eat nettles!

I used to run into them as a kid, wandering in the forest behind my house.