Spring Fling with Nettles

Stinging nettles poking out of the ground, 4/16/15.

Stinging nettles poking out of the ground, 4/16/15.

I grow nettles in the "flower" bed up against my home. I have been asked on many occasions: "What person in their right mind would plant nettles in any flower bed and the bed right up against the house?" The answer is obvious to me; I am not in my right mind and who wouldn't plant nettles so close to the house? They are oh so close when I need them for soups. stews, stir fries, pesto, tinctures, medicinal infusions, etc.

Now here is the double edged sword with this situation: they are close at hand but these 'lil buggers like to run and take over the world just like mints. They create this under soil runner that, well, just runs, and runs, and runs spiraling out of control. I spend the spring pulling the renegade nettles out of the rest of the flower bed in front of my home. When I planted them, 5 years ago, I politely asked them to stay in their space on the side of the house. I even dug down into the soil and planted sandstone pieces to deter them from running. They out smarted me.

As aggravating as this can be, I do have a steady supply of spring nettles that I do not feel guilty about pulling. I snip the leaves to eat and plant the runners along the yard's edge hoping for yet more nettles to eat and make medicine with.

My bowl of nettle tops and leaves.

My bowl of nettle tops and leaves.

A close up of 2 nettle tops ready for dinner.

A close up of 2 nettle tops ready for dinner.

Nettles in the pan, a gentle saute' in butter is all that is needed.

Nettles in the pan, a gentle saute' in butter is all that is needed.

The stems that I gently cooked first;  why waste the nutrients?

The stems that I gently cooked first;  why waste the nutrients?

Cooked nettles waiting for me to consciously devour them.

Cooked nettles waiting for me to consciously devour them.

The finished salad with nettles scattered across the top.

The finished salad with nettles scattered across the top.

I have made mention of my Spring difficulties around food. All winter I graciously and gratefully eat local cabbage, root veggies, and squash. I save my frozen local summer veggies to tide me over when I can no longer stand the thought of a root veggie and cabbage slaw. Yes, it does happen. (My winter leftovers are waiting to be made into sauerkraut when I can dig enough wild leeks to enhance this kraut batch.) 

I yearn for local food: asparagus, greens, fiddle heads, peas, strawberries...

To survive until the local food is bountiful once again, I buy food from California. There, I confessed. The above salad is Romaine lettuce, celery, carrots, and juicy red peppers from California. I also buy non-local fruits: mango, banana, kiwi, citrus, and canned organic pineapple. I am desperate for neatly gift packaged sunshine to tide me over to the local food scene. A ripe mango has a serious amount of sun waiting to burst out of its skin. I bow my head in gratitude to the people, the trees, and the soil that brings me these gems to keep me happy.

I plopped the above salad down in front of my kids, minus the nettles of course. They would have flipped had I expected them to eat Nettles! (They did each have a small spoonful that they chucked into their mouths and barely chewed before swallowing. Someday they will appreciate the things I have exposed them to...) Here was my salad response:

"Finally, a real salad. No more nasty cabbage - root veggie slaw! Yay!"

Poor kids, they suffer so.

"Wow, Mom broke down and bought something that didn't grow within 20 miles of our home."

When do they learn to not harass the person keeping them in food?

Tip for the day: Get outside. Snip some nettles. Hey, dig some wild leeks and saute' them together, ever so gently. Enjoy the taste sensation, the local wild food, and the spring nourishment for your body. Oh yeah, don't bother sharing with the kids!

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