Stinging in the rain

I felt like a princess trying to save the world while out harvesting nettles in the rain. The fairy tale, “The Wild Swans” written by Hans Christian Anderson is about a princess who has to weave 11 jackets out of nettles to rescue her brothers from an evil witch’s spells. Their sister was condemned to die at the stake for her strange actions and her inability to talk about it. I often think about her courage and fortitude sitting in a nettle patch.

Some good recipes to experience the flavor of nettles and to keep bad spells at bay  –

Garlicky Nettle Pesto  1/2 lb nettles, 4 smashed garlic cloves, 1/2 C roasted pine nuts, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 1/4 C olive oil, 1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese.  Simmer the nettles in boiling water to denature their sting for 2 minutes. Drain and wrap them in a clean dishtowel to remove the moisture. Whirl the garlic, pine nuts, nettles, lemon juice in a food processor until finely chopped. Drizzle in the oil and process until smooth. Add cheese and season to taste.

Nettle soup  1 lb chopped fresh nettles, 1/2 lb potatoes, 3-4 green onions, 3 tsp oil, 1 3/4 C water, 1/3 C cream. In a saucepan, saute the onions. Add the potato and water and cook until soft. Add in the nettles and cook for a couple of minutes. Puree and return to the saucepan and add in cream. Season.

Spinach and Nettles Spanakopita (crustless) 2 lb spinach, 2 C nettles, 3 C water, 1/4 C olive oil, 1 diced onion, 1 1/2 tsp dill, 1 tsp salt, 30 grinds of pepper, 8 oz feta cheese, 2 happy eggs, 1 Tb butter for greasing baking dish.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash and stem greens, Add greens and nettles to boiling water for about 10 minutes, until tender. Drain, saving water for later use as soup stock. Chop greens and set aside. Heat oil and saute onions.  In medium bowl, whisk eggs, dill and other seasonings. Add greens, onion and feta cheese – stir again. Spoon into a buttered dish and bake for 40 minutes. Yummers!

Some of you still are not impressed and that is just TOO bad. That means Steve and I will have Spanakopita with the greens remaining after market!

Included in the market boxes this week should also be Mizuna, spinach, lettuce, radishes, asparagus & Solomon’s seal, pea shoots and some other choices to fill out the order. And did I mention radishes? Now is the time to eat them good and sweet.

Search under tags “recipes” or “radishes” etc. to find what has been mentioned in the past. Mizuna might be new to some folks but we harvest it each year in spring and fall. I like it best in scrambled eggs, happy ones, of course.

And we begin again

The garage floor has been mopped and swept clean of winter debris; the metamorphosis into Jubilee Farm Market is nearly complete. Wooden market boxes have been oiled and are ready to be filled for the 2014 season that begins this Wednesday.

What to expect? Woodland greens include Solomon’s seal and nettles along with some dock – NOT burdock. Solomon’s seal is similar to asparagus in flavor. I like it best lightly sauteed in olive oil. It can also be added to a stir-fry dish at the very end of the cooking process. Nettles have gotten a prickly rap but the trick is not to roll around in them. They can be harvested with gloves and then tongs used to move them in the cooking process. Once slightly cooked or hot water poured over them, they lose their itch. Nettles can be used anywhere cooked spinach is called for, in a soup they keep their vibrant green color.

Dock, as in curly dock or one of its cousins, is in the same family as sorrel. This was noted in my June 10, 2013 snippet if you would like to read more. I like it cooked with beef and served with a grain.

I have been munching on all the spinach cast-offs and my-oh they are sweet! CSA market boxes will get a salad mix of Tyee and Space spinach with several kinds of lettuce. The first round of radishes will be ready to harvest. They are intercropped in the tomatoes and the pac choi and need to come out so their neighbors can continue to grow.

We started the celery a bit early – well, the spring went longer than usual, and celery doesn’t like weather below 55°F. Nathan had to upgrade all the medium soil blocks to the largest ones for the celery since their toes were sticking out! An upgrade means mixing up the special recipe and pushing out cookies the size of a half loaf of bread with a big hole chewed out of the middle. Into that hole goes the medium soil block with the celery plant. A LOT of work and the trays need plenty of space, which is in short supply. The plants without the upgrade will be harvested for market boxes. Fresh celery for chicken soup!

Mettling with nettles

Recent observations:

  • May Queen lettuce wrap with homemade cheese is unbeatable
  • Solomon’s seal is delicious stir-fried in olive oil with a few chopped green onions
  • stored butternut squash from 2012 makes tasty soup 6 months later
  • no more morel mushrooms
  • I love to mettle with nettles in the driving rain

What have you been observing? I haven’t woken up to June yet, it feels like April. We continue to have slight drought conditions according to the U.S. Drought Monitor so these are happy tears coursing through the sky. One could choose to be grumpy: celebrations indoors or canceled, sports in a muddy fields, the sun is hidden from view and there is no rock picking.

We were going to plant trees today along the western edge of our farm. Instead there are cucumbers being planted in the west high tunnel tucked in with camomile and other herbs. I made a mad dash on my bike early this morning in the beginning showers to harvest nettles, cattails, rhubarb and some other fun things. When the wind picked up, a quiet voice kept asking me why I was in a field of nettles getting buffeted by the wind and bathed by the rain. Hmmmm…. Answer: Because I want to make Irish nettle soup for everyone at the market along with some Irish Soda Bread to celebrate our first day of the summer market. I hope you enjoy the treat….I was in the lowest gear riding home into the wind!

Market boxes should contain: radishes, a small bag of salad mix, a large bunch of spring onions, asparagus, chives, Mizuna, herbs, either curly kale or green garlic and a jar of jam. The first fields of radishes and lettuces are ending; others are coming along. The second planting of Asian greens, such as Mizuna, have been under cover to ward off the flea beatles. Garlic failed this year, I think due to drought.

Yesterday, the three baby robins flew out of their nest near our garage door -oof, what a day to experience clinging to some wet limb with water running in rivulets down your back!





A buzz around flowers

This is my dream… serve farm dinners each month that commemorate local seasonal goodness. Would you buy a ticket and come? The menu theme for May 2014 will celebrate woodlands and plains!

  • *Nettle soup for an appetizer
  • Thinly sliced *steak in balsamic, olive and *maple syrup sauce
  • Served with*Whole wheat *herbed bread
  • Salad for a king (*Solomon’s seal, *red & green oakleaf lettuce, *spinach, *dock, and flowers! *violets, and *redbuds) with a splash of *fruity vinaigrette
  • Steamed *asparagus
  • *Mint tea
  • *Raspberry scone

All * foods would travel to the festivities between 10 feet to 10 miles away! Imagine, what fun it would be: all of us gathered at long formal tables beside the emerald and ruby lettuce beds as the sun goes down! Remember, this is my dream; it’s rather romantic  but yes, we would be indoors if the usual weather was threatening: hailstorm, freezing wind, 30 mph wind gusts, tornado, searing heat – it all almost occured this past week – oh my goodness!

Did any of you take note of the white board that Nathan designed when picking up your shares this past week? I could start giving a quiz and a perfect score would receive a double share of nettles! Haha! Here it is for your perusal:

Permaculture PERMAnent agriCULTURE

Goals: Harmonious integration of people and the landscape providing food, energy, shelter, and other needs in a sustainable way.

Philosophy: Work with nature, not against nature. Strive for multiple yields rather than monocultures. Long and thoughtful observation, not long and thoughtless action.

Bill Mollison  is the originator of the permaculture concept.

This week’s share should include: May Queen head lettuce, Marvel of 4 seasons head lettuce, Tokyo Bekana, Pac Choi, mint, chives, salad mix, radishes, nettles with many extras for sale. There could also be a few flowers: violets and redbuds to take home to sprinkle on your mixed salad greens!

Nathan and Loida are visiting the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute in Colorado this week. We’ve been working hard to fill their boots!

Farmer – Forager – Food Citizen – Cook

It’s about nettles – treat them right and there is no sting! There are some awesome fairy tales from my childhood regarding stinging nettles and witches casting spells but…back to the topic at hand.

They are wonderful in flavor and have a brilliant green color that does not wash out with cooking. The trick is to handle them with tongs or gloves when raw. After a very brief blanche or steam they are harmless to the touch. Check out this blog and it will lead you to many recipes and other ideas!

My favorite recipe is adapted from Stinging Nettle and Potato Soup from “Abundantly Wild” by Teresa Marrone:

2 green onions, minced
1 Tablespoon oil
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth or milk
2 pounds potatoes, diced
1/2 pound stinging nettles (handle with tongs!)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt or to taste
Grated Asiago or Romano cheese for serving

Chop onions, dice potatoes and add to boiling broth. Add nettles, using tongs, to soup when potatoes are tender. Return to boiling and cook for 1 minute. Pulse in blender until finely chopped. Return to gentle bubble and cook for about 5 mintues, stirring occasionally. Dash on a bit of grated cheese and serve.

A hearty sandwich on homemade rye or wheat, with the soup, fills out the meal. Share members will have the choice to try some nettles this week….just remember to use gloves or tongs!

The rest of the harvest? Let me tell you…our carrots look terrific so I expect to see smiles on faces at pickup time. Imagine – carrots in mid May! These were planted in a high tunnel in February and are good and sweet. In addition to carrots, there will be a salad mix, head lettuce, green onions, rhubarb, radishes, mizuna, mint, and dill. We appreciate it when you let friends know that we have a farm market. Everything is also for sale if you are needing additional items.

I found a wonderful oregano salad recipe: Salatat Baharat in Syrian style cooking from “Secrets of Healthy Middle Eastern Cuisine” by Sanaa Abourezk. I have also added additional salad greens which was wonderful. The sumac is a difficult spice to find, we hope to harvest it this fall!

2 cups fresh oregano leaves
1 cup fresh thyme (or 1 Tb. dried)
1 cup scallions, chopped
1 cup tomato, chopped (I’m waiting for fresh so have left this out)
1 Tb olive oil
1 tsp sumac
2 Tb lemon juice

You may be wondering what we do to encourage high nutrition and good taste in our crops. If you happen to see Nathan with a sprayer on his back- he uses a mixture of whey from our own cheesemaking process, herbal tea from: Nettles, Alfalfa and Sweet clover, a schlup of molasses, neem oil and a fish emulsion to finish off the potion.