Tuesday, January 18, 2011
First though back to the fresh greens. There is one in particular that everyone should consider drastically important since it comes up early and fast and is everything we need to chase the winter deficiencies away. It is called Urtica Dioica by plant nerds and provides oh so much more than little white bumps on your skin when you touch it. We all know it as Stinging Nettles and it is plentiful early in the spring alongside the earliest of the fungophile prey. While looking for Early Morels you will no doubt encounter pain and odd sensations in your hands from lovely little green leaves and their white puncturific hairs adorning tasty the self-same Stinging Nettles. They in fact often boast extra large green leaves that are much more tender and delicious when picked early. I usually pluck most of mine early in the spring after donning football pads, and wrapping myself in a twenty foot tarp. We eat some, juice some, boil some, and dry a bunch of the excess. In fact for juice freaks, as zingy and wonderful as they are in the spring, rawish they are actually dangerous later in the year to the kidneys and urethras. Our excess dried nettles are then added to teas, beer, and food throughout the year. I am also going to boil a large pot down to a thick extract and add it to my cow’s drinking water as a nutritive tonic since I like to have happy cows and they boast of the best and heartiest vitamins and minerals.
Do you eat Easter pudding? Pretty unheard of on the fast food menus we are used to these days but it was extremely important before we got our food in styrofoam, vitamins in bottles, and minerals in fortifications. It was used to add the nutrients back into peoples bodies after the winter and was made with Bistort, Dock, Dandelions, and that’s right, Stinging Nettles. They can be up to one-quarter raw protein and are chock full of Iron and Calcium, Potassium and Sulphur along with Manganese, Lime, Sodium and plenty of vitamins A, C, D and K. They are actually far more plentiful in these vitamins per ounce than carrots, and oranges and have more Calcium and Potassium than milk and bananas. To be honest I can’t really take the space to list all of what they have in them but let’s just say they are just about the coolest plant ever to eat in the spring. As a fantastic milk producing agent and great in beer they are the perfect addition to my controversial Mommy Beer. Actually we do no such thing (as far as we can state here in semi-public), but beer is also a great promoter of lactation, though not recommended to those without great will power. Although we haven’t gotten into the trace mineral elements or the natural random acupunctural qualities we must let nettles rest for now as they most certainly will in the earth for the next month or so.
Perhaps I’m a bit ahead of my time since we only just started breaking fifty degrees and it is still only light for 9-10 hours a day but I keep dreaming of Arugula and little beautiful lettuce leaves creeping out from under the chill. Right now though we are still working out the old greens that luckily were spared in our microclimate. Kale and parsley are abundant and chard is on the comeback trail.
We also have plenty of garlic and shallots thanks to a wonderful friend who brought us a big bag to get us through. This is where stocking up is extremely helpful and can keep us in the gourmet edibles all winter. We are still knee deep in salmon and have at least 8 kinds of mushrooms in our freezer or in our pantry. Actually one of the freezers is in the pantry so I suppose there might be some double meaning or paradoxical problem with that statement. For all I know the mushrooms in the freezer in the pantry might understand this double negative and go poof into the ether the second this is published. Let’s say they don’t. Then they will go poof in a cream of mushroom soup or set quietly under a remoullade atop a salmon fillet soon enough. Regardless of how it will happen they will go poof and disappear in the near future. Of that you may be certain.
Initially my idea of a blog was full of purpose and I suspected that we could help people eat well on less money but I’m not going to just give everybody all of my mushrooms. That means I have to tell a bunch of people to start picking them which means they will find my spots right? OK so go pick mushrooms but stay out of my spots, got it? Here in the depths of a fierce NW winter it is far better to approach mushrooms the fancy way and to grow them in little white blocks on your kitchen table, a closet, garage, or heck why not a whole warehouse then you can give me some. There are great sources for these blocks and they will turn out large amounts of gourmet mushrooms if cared for properly as well as leave visitors to your home thinking, “The food was great but those people are pretty far out”. I highly recommend them. I also highly recommend that you stay out of my morel spots and start some of your greens inside very soon.
Just because I’m crazy and Jan. 1 means start to plant stuff that will die long before they ever see the light of the sun, I am planting Rocket, Brassicus, and other greens along with poor little peppers destined to suffer in 4” pots a month before they can be moved out. I am expecting an early spring and that we will have the perfect variations of rainfall and sunshine so my peppers will turn into trees and live long and fruitful lives. People say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one. Oh yeah, a new fun thing to try. Since we are also close to starting tomatoes I’m going to try this grafting thing and see if I can grow some of the more desirable types on NW hardy rootstocks. I’ve got a few that have worked well for the past several years and that I keep convincing myself are becoming more blight resistant. I would love to get some massive Purple Cherokees to grow well on my heirloom plum tomato plants rootstocks. Is this getting too gardeny?
Keep eating good food and stay away from Monsanto and drive-throughs. Big business doesn’t care about you no matter how much they spend on advertising to tell you they do. Get to know your local farmers and support producers that are trying to do it right not just paying for a certification that has ceased to mean anything. Packaging is bad and so are bar codes. If you don’t know where it comes from or can’t pronounce the ingredients it belongs in the trash. Keep in touch and remember, Eat Better, Live Better.