Look what I made! This is just a little taste though – there’s more comin’! In here are: spaghetti squash, carrot, fennel, arugula, strawberries and onion (and some nettles also picked in the garden).
I’m saving the exhilaration of my virgin trip with spaghetti squash for later, but today’s gathering resulted in a skillet of damped nettles, fennel (grass & bulb), onion, carrotgrass, arugula with butter, pepper, Himalaya salt and local olive oil from Provence. Served with salmon and baked potatoes, sweet potatoes and onion.
… or Allium sibirica, “siberian onion”; larger and milder than regular chives. We picked these right outside our rental cottage in Honningsvåg, Norway! The eggs were whisked up with ham, cheese, chopped cherry tomatoes, black pepper and a generous load of these chives. I used them as I would scallions.
I’m continuing my experimenting with edible wild plants. This is a side dish of stinging nettle, dandelion leaves, goutweed and fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) fried up with some butter, onions and scallions. Towards the end I tossed in some parmesan cheese and seasoned with salt and pepper. I served it with grassfed beef and some leftover ratatouille, but it goes with anything.
Fireweed (American) or rosebay willowherb (British) is a nitrogen-loving herb thriving on burn sites – hence the name. Stems, roots and flowers are all edible. It’s rich in vitamins A and C and iron. The plant’s been called “the asparagus of the forrest” and I simply love the crunchiness of the stems, lightly boiled or in a stir fry. The have a slight bitterness which can be dimmed with seasoning or marinade. Fireweed has also been used medicinally for its astringent effect, so I suppose it should be consumed in moderation.
… or crustless pie if you would. I’ve done some baking with almond flour (finely ground almonds) lately, and the results have been gooorgeous. I would argue that an almond flour pie crust is even tastier than one with regular flour … but the problem is: an almond overload isn’t healthy either. They contain a lot of polyunsaturated fats (I won’t go into the details, but this article gives a reasonable explanation on the dangers of a high, I repeat: high PUFA consumption). They also contain tiny amounts of the toxic hydrogen cyanide, which of course becomes a substantial amount with an excessive intake. One cup of almond flour contains about 90 almonds. That’s a lot of almonds, and imagine using three cups per cookie dough!
But enough with the almonds, which are only really a part of this recipe through their absence. What is present though, is more weeds! I picked a nice batch of stinging nettle and goutweed; added them directly (after a gentle cleanse) to about 8 whisked eggs along with some ham, cheese, a chopped onion, cherry tomatoes and pepper; put some more cheese on top and baked in the oven for about 20 min. Serve with some mixed salad, and you have a great supper. Ummm yeah.
The first feeble sprouts of stinging nettle are bursting out of their perennial root system in my garden. After attending a course last year about using wild plants for cooking, I’ve realized the boundaries between “weed” and “herb” are conventions. In nature there are thousands of delicious edible wild plants, and most of them just as nutritious, maybe even more so, than our cultivated plants. Stinging nettle is one of them. Its taste reminds of spinach, and it’s crammed with nutrients like iron, vitamins and other important trace elements. My dad often made nettle soup when I was little, so cooking with nettle holds quite some nostalgia for me.
You can pick the sprouts in spring, or harvest the tips off the bigger plants throughout summer. Use them as you would spinach – how ’bout sautéed, in a pie, in salad, in pesto or a stew? Yummy. This simple brew (though it’s not quite right to call it “tea” when there’s no actual tea involved, but meh. Blame the networking effect) is prepared by soaking newly picked or dried nettles in hot water for 5 – 15 minutes, depending on taste. Though I gotta say this drink gives you the most when it’s quite strong. It has an umami feel (at least that’s my take), flawless health benefits, and it’s great in the morning.
Another perk when viewing wild plants this way is that suddenly they’re not your enemies anymore! You welcome them rather than feeling resentful for not using all you might to get rid of them. Plenty of nettle, dandelion and goutweed (all delicacies) grow in my garden, and they’re my friends now. I feel privileged to be able to feast off of nature’s pantry in abundance.
I also made this delectable egg salad with today’s loot of nettle and goutweed:
So … not much of it left now. The salad, I mean. Looking forward to experiment more with the edibles of the local flora this summer – there will very probably be more posts on the subject.