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!

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!

Heavenly, divinely dock

The good news is that there should be a larger assortment of greens harvested this week: Tokyo Bekana, salad greens with spinach and pea shoots, parsley, head lettuce for full share members, curly dock, and Solomon’s seal. I’m not sure if 30 more loaves of bread are the way to fill your market box but it could come to pass. I did find a bread recipe using frozen pesto and birch sap – haha, it was one I devised. A slice is superb with grilled thinly sliced tenderloin steak having been marinated in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup.

Did anyone like the curly dock? We’ve been eating it everyday in place of lettuce in a sandwich, stir-fried with onions and hamburger (1/2 Cup sauteed onions, add in and fry until done 1/2# ground beef, 1 tsp coriander and/or 1 tsp cumin, salt, about 4 cups of dock, finely sliced across the midrib. Fry until just past limp. Add 1/2 cup water if it is too dry.) or in a bean soup. It can be used in recipes instead of kale, spinach, cabbage and gives each bite a brief sensation of lemon.

I found a huge vale of Solomon’s seal – my secret, sorry. If you recall last May was mighty hot and Solomon passed us by. This green is similar to asparagus which is handy since true asparagus is still sleeping. Lao cooks steam Solomon’s seal ever so slightly and munch on it with sticky rice. There are many tales and names for this woodland green down through the ages. One needs to know its form and structure so as not to mistake it for a malcontent.

I mentioned birch sap earlier. I’ve not boiled it down to make syrup; a gas stove uses a non renewable resource. Someday, we will have an outdoor wood-fired oven and that will be the green light to go! Our river birch lost one of its branches in the storm and continues to weep almost 5 gallons a day! I’ve collected it and am drinking it instead of water. Why? I’m not sure, though it is an intriging thought to follow each drop back down the trunk, to the tip of some distant root, and through the mycorrhizas into the soil. Amazing at best! No chlorine. It has been filtered just for me.

Oh a foraging we will go…

What fun it is to find tasty treasures on a walkabout! My latest woodland menu item is steamed solomon’s seal. I fried a few green onions in olive oil and then added the tender tips of solomon seal with a few spoonfuls of water. After a couple of minutes, when the greens look limp, they are ready to be served as you would asparagus. I learned about solomon seal when having weekly potlucks with Lao women friends. It is eaten as a cooling side dish served up with sticky rice and a fiery dipping sauce.

I used to yank these plants out of flower beds knowing full well they would be my eternal friends, coming back each year with a bigger spring blessing. Now I am thankful for each green plot! I begin to see “lunch” wherever I look!

Tomorrow evening is the third meeting with our zoning board to approve our request for keeping bee hives on our 20 acres. The queen bees arrive tomorrow so we hope to have all the papers signed so royalty can set up their housekeeping in the very near future.

To report on all our winter work preparing for share members would require a tedious read. The important news is that Spring Share Pickups begin next Wednesday, May 9, from 3-6 p.m. Our garage gets a makeover and becomes the Jubilee Farm Market. We will have your market boxes ready for you to fill at your first visit. Feel free to park on the street or drive up to the garage, making sure to keep to one side so that others can pass. I just ask that the car motor is turned off rather than left idling.

Next week’s harvest and farm market should include: salad greens including lettuces, spinach, mache and claytonia, head lettuce, rhubarb, chives, mint, oregano, asparagus and a few other surprises..depending on the weather. This has been a challenging spring since we are essentially one month ahead of time with the early warmup.

We have many pounds of salad greens for sale this week, give me a call at 507-360-3293, and I’ll have your order ready!

Please sign up for summer shares if you have not done so as yet. Thanks!