Thursday, February 18, 2010


It’s been an unusual Winter here in Seattle. In fact, it’s turned out to be the nicest Winter I can remember. El Niño has kept temperatures high, and lessened the otherwise constant rain. In fact, this last January was the warmest ever recorded in Seattle. As I sit here it is sunny and 60 degrees out. In February! Outrageous!

Also: "More please!"

Spring is here.

As a result, things are coming up early. A walk around the neighborhood shows bulbs sprouting in every yard. The Cherry trees are blooming all around. Mushrooms are beginning to pop up too. Last weekend I spotted some Fairy Rings, as well as other assorted small brown mushrooms. There was even on large white one growing down the road. Not sure what it was, it looked like a Field or Horse mushroom, an Agaricus of some kind, but it had a viscid top. Beats me. Yesterday I spotted some small Oyster mushrooms in a lady's yard, and told her about them, but she just complained about having to weed again. Some people.

With the warm weather another perennial pain in the ass is also sprouting: Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica). But this year I resolved to put the hurt on them for a change. I am going to eat them.

For all their stinging obnoxiousness, nettles are actually one of the most nutritious plants you can eat. Loaded with iron, vitamins, and other medicinal goodies they’ve been recognized as a folk cure for ages. You can make tea, beer, pasta, soup, pretty much anything with them. So I packed some scissors, a glove, and a plastic bag and set out to a local park to see if they were sprouting yet.

They were.

The trick is to pick them when they are no more than 8” or so tall. At that stage, you can go ahead and eat the whole thing. Later on in the season, the stalks get woody and unpleasant, forcing you to either harvest just the tips, or pick just the leaves.

There is a way to pick them using just your fingers and a quick, firm grasp. No thank you. I opted for scissors and a yard glove. In no time I'd picked a grocery bag full and set off home.

From this point you you have to remove the sting, caused by tiny silica needles that inject you with a cocktail of itchy, obnoxious chemicals. You can either lay them out on a rack to dry for several days, which will remove the sting and which I might try later this week. Or you can blanch them for 20-30 seconds in boiling water, then plunge them into some icewater to shock them and set the vibrant green color. Which is what I did with this batch.

As the season unfolds I'll post a couple things that I'm going to try with them. It is so nice I out right now I'm thinking I may go pick some more this afternoon, soon as this brewday is finished.


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