Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Spring Produce and Lemony Spring Soup

It is easy to find dinner inspiration when it is not the dead of winter!  The garnet orbs caught my eye as I was watering.  One might have thought I had found gold the way I danced over and started pulling those beautiful earthy radishes from their bed.  The first crop.  Lettuce, lamb’s quarters, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and lemon thyme joined the pile of growing dinner plans.  And a leek!  Left over from the gardener the year before, I am thankful.  I have never been successful at growing leeks!  Home it went.

Lemony Spring Soup

First gather all inspirations.  I had small potatoes, red and yellow, from the market, a Jerusalem artichoke, radishes, herbs, greens (wild and cultivated).  Use what you have!

First we start with a sofrito.  In Italy this is onion, garlic, carrot, celery.

I chopped 1 leek, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 carrot, 1 celery stalk and sautéed in beautiful olive oil until the leeks and garlic were savory and transparent.  I chopped 2 potatoes, 1 diced Jerusalem artichoke, the radishes and added them to the pot.

I used a few leaves of lemon balm, a few of lemon verbena, lemon thyme.  I saved cilantro for the end because I am the only one who adores it.

Chop up greens and herbs and add to pot with 2 cups of vegetable broth.

To the broth I added 3 Tablespoons of Vietnamese Lemon Curry but you could add Italian seasoning, or Mexican seasoning, or Spanish, or your favorite curry or nothing at all!

Add 2 slices of lemon and 2 one inch pieces of ginger, and a real good splash of white wine to the broth and let simmer until everything is tender.

Check your flavor and add salt and pepper if needed.

I add cilantro to my bowl first so Doug doesn’t have to have any.  Remove lemon and ginger pieces.  Pour yourself a big refreshing bowl.  Delicious!

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving), Herbal Remedies

Stinging Nettles (wild food and medicine)

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You might view your weeds a little differently if I told you that they contain ten times more nutrition, vitamins, and minerals than conventional greens, or that you might never have to buy spinach again, or that you can heal all sorts of things from cancer to hay fever with wild greens.  You might think twice about getting the weed killer out!  Those weeds, Friends, are food and medicine.

Yesterday when I arrived at my shop a beautiful box was waiting for me.  A gift beyond measure.  A new dress?  A cup of coffee?  Candies?  No, stinging nettles.  A whole box of discarded weeds.  She was only too happy to drop them off at my shop.  Gold, people, gold.

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Stinging nettles are used widely in Europe as a wild green.  Once they are cooked or dried the stingers are inactive.  In pasta or soup, they add a powerful supply of minerals and are a free source of greens.  If you don’t have any growing in the pasture you can go to Tagawa, or other garden store, and order a plant.  For $4 I have one growing on my third floor balcony.  A great supply of allergy medicine.  Yes, allergy medicine.  Nothing stops allergies faster than stinging nettles.

The other reason I have it in a pot is because it will spread like a runaway toddler.  It does have stingers, bitty fiberglass barbs that irritate the skin, so wear gloves when harvesting.  Dry a good part in a paper bag with holes in it for three weeks.  This will provide tea to stop allergies quickly and keep you in nettles over the winter.

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Fresh nettles can be eaten.  I use a sandwich bag or the like to protect my fingers as I cut up the greens.  Today they will join the beans that were cooking all night in the crock pot.  Beans, bacon, cream, onions, and nettles with homemade bread.  A delicious lunch, I must say.

And friends, don’t forget to eat curly dock, yellow dock, sunflower leaves, dandelions, lamb’s quarters, and purslane.  Delicious and healthy!

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving), Herbal Remedies

Harvesting From the Marsh (or one’s back yard)

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It was the first really warm day yesterday.  Beautiful.  The birds sang and the sun shone truly bright and comforting as I found my way through the foot high brush in the marsh.  Water snaked its way through patches as the large, old willow tree, in all its knowledge of history past hundred years or so, drank steadily and protected the greenery beneath.  Plantain has sprung up.  Used to heal wounds and also as food, it is a welcome sight.  Dandelions grow tall and bush-like, tantalizing me with its toothed leaves and delicious flavors highlighted by the sunny yellow flowers.  Dock rose up in long slender arms and invited me to have some.  It is a powerful blood cleanser, anti-cancer, and healing to the liver, but one wouldn’t know by its mild bite and delicious addition to meals.  Lamb’s Quarters showed shyly between wild grasses.

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Wild strawberry leaves sit between plantain leaves and take me to memories past.  A walk in the woods with my best friend some twenty-four years ago but really a day ago it seems.  We walked and dreamed.  Seventeen years old and filled with hope and certainty that our friendship would stand the tests of time.  We walked without shirts on, unbidden and wild and innocence, in dappled sunlight we walked in carefree youth and joy.  We agreed to meet ten years from the date with our families and walk this way again.  August 11, 2001 came and went as did 2011 and I only wish her great joy and blessings on her path in her own woods.  Strawberries will make a luxurious addition to our salads.

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We walked further, accidentally frightened frogs, and came across the pond.  Looking up into another ancient willow sat four birds.  Large owls sat in statue.  The husband, wife, and two infants, large and downy, flew one by one.  A gift for this fine day of free food and soulful walking.  How great is nature to provide vast amounts of food for us.  Free for the taking, ten times more nutritious than cultivated greens.  Cleansing, and filling, and healing.

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Try wild greens on mixed salad.  Or top pizza before baking.  Roast with potatoes and garlic.  Sauté with bacon and mushrooms.  Make into a smoothie.  Indulge.  Wild greens are actually milder than spinach.  There are many ways to prepare it.  In gratitude is the best way.

Dock has tasty greens.  Harvest the root in fall to make detoxifying extracts.
Dock has tasty greens. Harvest the root in fall to make detoxifying extracts.
Lamb's quarters are found in many back yards proving that weeds can be delicious!
Lamb’s quarters are found in many back yards proving that weeds can be delicious!
Dandelion flowers can be made into jelly or fritters and the greens sautéed, roasted, or eaten fresh.  The roots can be used to make immunity boosting extracts.
Dandelion flowers can be made into jelly or fritters and the greens sautéed, roasted, or eaten fresh. The roots can be used to make immunity boosting extracts.
Cut herbs like plantain with a sharp knife and only take up to one third of what you find.  Be grateful.  It makes the food more nutritious and healing.
Cut herbs like plantain with a sharp knife and only take up to one third of what you find. Be grateful. It makes the food more nutritious and healing.
Owl in tree.
Owl in tree.
Watching owls take flight.
Watching owls take flight.
Rainstorm moving in.
Rainstorm moving in.
Posted in Farming, Food/Wine (and preserving)

Weed Farmer (and Eater)

dandelion field

Beneath the mounds of snow lay sweet foods of nature, that didn’t even need to be planted by human hands.  The once glistening cool snow in all its glittery wonder, bringing us comfort and thoughts of outdoor play, is now muddy, mussed snow, with patches of melting ice.  Not as pretty of a sight, but sign that Spring will be upon us any day now.

In the summer we dine on fresh vegetables, directly off the stalk, or chosen carefully off of a farmer’s table at market.  A dash of salt is all that is needed, a leaf of fresh basil finishes sliced, juicy tomatoes.  It does not take much to elevate summer fare.  Brushed with sweet butter and lime on a grill accompanied by a cold beer and surrounded by friends, corn is at its very best.  We eat fresh, we play hard, summer is great for food.

Autumn brings us the harvest.  Warming dishes of soups and heartier fare sneaks onto the table once again as we reenter the kitchen, less sweat and happy to be home.  Winter brings heavier fare as nature would intend.  Even if it is not terribly cold outdoors, our bodies instinctively know to eat up and get through the winter.  Pastas, canned foods, frozen foods, cheese, cream laden soups.

lamb's quarters (Lamb’s Quarters)

And then Spring beckons, bringing her own fare.  Dandelions bob their cheery heads, dancing in the still cool breeze.  Lamb’s quarters make a break and attempt their control of the garden.  Their sweet leaves begging for dressing.  Very small sunflower leaves, furry and nutty.  Wild onions, wild garlic, mallow leaves….Spring brings her own picnic basket.

Often folks are so busy clearing all these out to make room for plants that barely survive the climate.  Grass is not as tasty, I assure you.  It is easier, you know, to just go pick the weeds and bring them into the kitchen!

mallow (Mallow)

The greens are tonic, meaning they help the body detoxify and clear out all the heavy foods we put into the body and the excess weight to keep warm.  Greens cleanse the blood stream, help fight free radicals, balance the thyroid, improve digestion, heal up ulcers, and give bursts of energy.  And that is just home grown greens!  Wild greens, like dandelions, have ten times more nutrition than garden greens.  Calcium, magnesium, iron….and great, refreshing taste.

I grow baby greens in pots in the house, so I simply take a handful of lettuce, baby chard, baby kale, and small dandelion leaves, lamb’s quarter leaves, mallow leaves, etc and throw them in a big cereal bowl with pumpkin seeds, and drizzles of sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.  Or perhaps I will go with a really great infused olive oil and fresh sea salt.  Just a touch of sugar.  Just a few pine nuts.  The combinations are endless.

dandelion leaf (Dandelion Leaf)

Soon, I will look out the window and shades of sweet green will be crossing the yard, sneaking a stretch to grab some sunlight, and then jumping into my salad bowl.