The nettles are bursting out of the ground and provide a wonderful spring tonic for the blood and soul. I've cooked two great nettle meals and plan to spend the afternoon/evening 'putting up' stinging nettles by freezing and drying. I'll probably sip some nettle tea as I work wearing thick rubber gloves. Touching fresh stinging nettles hurts (hence the name) and last year I ended up with swollen fingers because I thought I had developed a 'relationship' with the nettles that would protect me from their painful pricks. Yeah... right....
Before the nettles sprouted, the local foods were getting to pretty slim pickings. We're fine for local meat- chicken, lamb, beef, pork. We still have sweet corn and squash in the freezer. But the frozen strawberries, broccoli, pea pods, green beans, spinach, basil, summer squash, etc... are long gone. We still have some potatoes sprouting in the pantry - they're delicious, but will probably become this year's seed potatoes since they stored so well.
Back to the nettle meals, I made Lamb Vindeloo which is basically a curry in which the meat is braised in vinegar, the curry added and simmered, then after 30 minutes add coconut milk to make a nice sauce. I added the raw nettle and sauteed them with the meat just before adding the coconut milk. It made a delicious saucey lamb dish that all 5 family member loved!
I have to tell you that the day after we had that nettle sauce, I felt like a new person. I swear that nettle is just the thing a person needs to get winter out of their system.
Last night I made a nettle quiche. Simple recipe: saute nettles with garlic. Wisk 12 eggs with about 2/3 C milk. Put nettles, couple handfuls of grated cheese, and egg mixture into a pie crust (I used Pillsbury- not from scratch). Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.
A suitable meal (where's the meat?) and delicious with a side of pickled beets and fresh fruit from Bonnies Hometown Grocery Store in Clinton.
We are desperate to use eggs as our chickens are at full laying power, producing 4 dozen a day. We don't yet have the market to sell that many eggs in Big Stone County... So this evening I may be making pickled eggs as well as putting up nettles.
The soup pictured below was made from the last of the winter veggies-- carrots, beans, and potatoes and ham from Pastures a Plenty (nearby Kerkhoven, MN). This ham has a great unique smokey flavor that is heavy on cloves. Adds a special taste to the beautiful soup.
One more thing I learned from Audrey Arner, Moonstone Farms, is that it is much easier to pick what natures offers rather than (in addition to) gardening, which requires tilling, planting, weeding, harvesting throughout the season. Nettles are free and abundant and I can pick them right out my back door- even closer than my garden. And yes- I have the kind of yard where nettles grow.