Thursday, 28 February 2013

Early Nettles!

 There are a few ways to get fresh greens at this time of year.
  • You could harvest last season's brassicas that are holding out through the winter (kale, collards, bok choi and others). 
  • You could have a nifty cold frame set-up that has been protecting your spinach, mustard greens & lettuces. 
  • You can grow indoors with lamps and sh-tuff.
  • OR you can sneak into the forest and get yourself some nettles (amongst other edibles, but this posting will just discuss nettles.)
New growth in mid-February
There are pros and cons to each option but I'd like to highlight some of the benefits of nettles.
  • Free
  • Minimal labour
  • Gets you in a wild space (not always, they will grow anywhere that has disturbed soil, saw some in a neglected front yard in Mt Pleasant last week, true story)
  • Provides opportunity to be unnecessarily secretive about your hidden patch
  • Stings eventually become invigorating and addictive (like pleasant pins & needles that stick around for 24hrs)
  • Nutritious beyond belief (the link compares nettles to kale - pretty sweet website for nutritional info)
  • Incredibly adaptable to many common meals and easy to dry for future use in teas & soups, some folks make beer out of it
  • It has incredible medicinal properties as well
We've got a secret patch that we've been hitting up for years, accessible by bike and big enough to support a few families. The early growth is best. If the plant is beyond 6'', I've been told that it begins to accumulate calcium carbonate which can lead to minor back pain and possibly kidney stones(!) if you indulge copious amounts daily. If they are tall plants that haven't flowered, it is still safe to harvest and consume, but just don't consume too much. I've also heard that sorry is a less desirable condition than safe, so exercising common sense seems appropriate here.

5 minutes of 'work' for three meals
We use it like kale, collards or spinach and have made omelettes, stir-fry, spanikopita, soups, pesto or just sauteed with salt, pepper and a little sesame oil - pairs nicely with salmon, rice and an IPA or ESB.

Shrinks down when it cooks (make sure you cook it well if not blanching first, heat removes the sting!)
Happy harvesting and be mindful to take only what you need.

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