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March 23, 2010

STALKING THE WILD NETTLE

Posted by Anais Dervaes

It's been really busy here on the urban homestead.  With daylight savings and first day of spring, the flurry of activity and projects have increased a hundredfold.

Back when we were teenagers, we read Euell Gibbon's classic Stalking the Wild Asparagus.

Since then, we've self-taught ourselves to identify wild edibles and their uses - both edible and medicinal.  If you ever go a-walking with us, we'll automatically be pointing out "that's edible and you can do such and such with it."  Jordanne's a walking encyclopedia when it comes to those things.  She'll even tell you how to become immune from poison oak by eating the leaves.  It's an old lore she read about, tried, lived to tell about  and she has never gotten poison oak since.  Of course,  this statement needs to be followed by a proper warning - eating poison ivy/oak can cause shock and severe breathing problems in certain people.

Thanks the recent rains,  the Arroyo Seco, which cuts a path from our mountainous foothills to the LA basin, is full of tasty treats if you know where to look.

On this weekend's goat walk, the little nettle patch that Jordanne spotted a few weeks  back was ready for harvesting.

Jordanne told me I should bring one of Farmer Justin's gloves to harvest the nettle but thought I'd follow Farmer Sergio's lackadaisical advice - "just grab the stems and pull!"   Yeah, one little detail: we, being good girl scouts, didn't want to pull up the patch.  Just harvest a few steams.   Jordanne, on the other side of the oak tree where the nettle patch was, could hear my painful picking cries of "oooh, ouch, ugh, urh, ouch!"    She jokingly said that she should have brought a video camera.  Yeah, probably been one for American's funnest videos.  But I wasn't laughing at the time.  I was determined to harvest nettles come hell or high water - more like come ten thousand tiny little stingers.   Of course, now I had a beef with someone and was duty bound to tell him his advice was for the birds.

Now, with a handful of nettles in hand, I wasn't sure it was enough for the recipe we had in mind.  This batch of nettles wasn't gong to be made into garden goop but a pesto over pasta.   Just to be sure I had enough wild greens, I picked some milk thistle that was growing not too far from the nettle patch.

Nettle pesto, you say.  Yeah, well nettle's been on the brain lately (mostly for boosting the garden) ever since  a friend of mine called, saying that she wanted in on the nettle mania because she just heard a nettle pesto recipe on NPR, So,  we figured just as well try it, since we had a source or two.

Here's the link to the Nettle Pesto Recipe; however, like we often do here at LHITC, we did a bit of substituting.

Instead of pine nuts (expensive), we used walnuts (cheaper) instead.  Didn't have any mint growing (yet) so used wild harvested milk thistle (another highly nutritious green).

Harvesting nettle.  About the flowers in my hair--news flash-- I am not going to San Fransisco! How they got in my hair is for another post.  Of course, it has to do with goats and another case of spring fever.

Super Greens!  Nettles and milk thistle

Watch out, Popeye, this stuff would grow hair on your chest.

Instead of roasting the nuts in the oven, I like to use our cast iron skillet and brown them on the stove top

Cast iron skillets are great and a must for any urban homesteader - don't know what I would do with out them. Not only are they healthier (check out the health benefits)  to use but they will last you a lifetime or two.   On our journey to do away with throwaway, one of our steps was to "purchase for life."  Sure, it costs a little money; but the investment is worth it.  Not only are you reducing your impact, but also  improving your own life as well.

You can purchase cast iron cookware at our online store

How to make pesto without power.    As many of you know our kitchen only has one plug in appliance and that is our energy efficient refrigerator (if we didn't have a produce business that would probably be replaced too)

We use nifty hand cranked appliances to do our processing for us, like this hand cranked blender (buy here on our online store)

After a few cranks, nice and creamy pesto!

Pesto & pasta

Dinner is served.  As one of my cooking mentors would say,  "Bon appetite!"

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5 Comments: "STALKING THE WILD NETTLE" »

  1. The nettle pesto looks good. I can not have tomatoes so we are always looking for alternatives and I recently learned that pesto sauce can replace tomato sauce on a pizza.

  2. The trick to picking nettles bare handed is to learn where, exactly the spines are. And then, of course, not to touch them, a skill I have not yet perfected. If I remember correctly from last year, you can fold the leaves down the middle, not touching the middle, or you can very carefully pinch off the stem, being careful not to touch the leaves.

    For me, though, at least for now, I'll be using my gloves.

  3. Thanks for the reminder that "pesto" should be viewed as a very loosely defined term :)
    I'm just starting to learn about wild edibles; the dandelions have been outrageous since the rains, so instead of digging them up I've been letting them grow and using them in smoothies and in combination with other leafy greens. Free food that's super nutritious - yay!

  4. Next nettle sting (or hundreds) crush a leaf, chew it and rub it and the juice on the area. It stops the sting. This tip came from Serge Boutenko and is in a foraging video probably on YouTube.

    OK, you can add a foraging facts section to the store too. A plant in season at the time, edible parts, medicinal properties, picture of it being harvested, recipes you use.

  5. In my experience, barehanded nettle harvesting is best done very, very and with lots of mindfulness. If you approach the plant with lots of respect and carefully bend the spines sideways, you will be able to grasp the stems enough to cut them. Sadly, I'm always in too much of a hurry! Sometimes I will use garden snips to grasp and put them into the basket. But, in honesty, usually I just use gloves. ;-)

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