Saturday, March 12, 2011

When life gives you nettles...

First, a big virtual hug and thank you for all your nice comments on my last post, I feel much better, if partly only after considering how lucky I really am. From chronically sick friends, to the sobering reality of those suffering the aftermath of Japan's earthquake, there's so much pain and anguish in this world, that when we can, we should try to enjoy what we have. Here's my attempt at that.
Kissa Says Relax!
While there's been a lot going on at our little house by the sea, some people seem to still find time to take it easy.
Comfort zone
We have much to learn from these people.
Sleepy time
In between relaxing though, I'm working on my final seed order. I like these folks, mostly because their organics are easy to spot and also because I like smaller, independent seed companies. I've had some bad experiences with Seed Savers (just bum seeds, but a few more than I would have liked), though I do continue to order from them as well. I use catalogues for some of the more "exotic" veggies, herbs and flowers (I'm rather particular about my squash by now. I love squash.), but most of the ordinary crops (carrots, greens, beets etc.) I buy from our local Island seed company, who are pretty darn awe-inspiring.

I also plan to buy all my tomato starts straight from the source and not bother with my own starts this year, since they just can't get a head start on my shady plot. They do fine once they're bigger, though, so it's worth the investment. We got lots of tomatoes last year and as we're eating yet another can of our home-made tomato sauce, are already excited for this years crop. I've also got a bunch of seeds I saved myself that are just starting to germinate, which makes me very happy.
Broom corn!
And Kale
It's about time too, because there's lots going on in the garden, seedlings, winter and spring crops and next fall's garlic and onions are really enjoying the extra light.
A meal make nettles
As is the wild harvest of the woods. Like I said yesterday, I've been gathering nettles a lot since we came back. Not only are they delicious in food, or as tea, they also have many medicinal properties and work for variety of illnesses.

As a matter of fact, they're good for pretty much all that ails me personally, a fact that is rather mysterious and wonderful. As a tea (just don't use boiling hot water, but a slightly lower temperature) it can ail allergies (I'm allergic to a variety of pollens and hay.), promote healthy kidney function (It's a diuretic, so make sure to drink lots of water. ), be applied as a poultice to excema (taking it internally is said to help with this too) and alleviate inflammation associated with, among other things, arthritis. It even alleviates joint pain applied directly to the area, prickly side up ;).
Start wearing purple
Not to mention that Nettle is delicious. It can be used just like kale, chard, spinach and other greens, is delicious in soups, sauces, pancakes (personal favorite- my mom making nettle pancakes was always a surefire sign of spring growing up) and of course pesto.
In the cut
Here's tea!
I've posted a little about nettles before, specifically our gathering method. It minimizes the chance of getting stung, medicinal as the sting may be. You just use a mason jar into which you clip the plants.
Heading out
I usually only take the most tender top leaves. The nettle will recuperate from such a clipping fairly quickly. Being relaxed also helps with not getting stung. I usually like to say a little thank you to the nettles too, for all the energy and health they are providing.
Little one
A walk in the woods is, as previously noted, a balm for the soul, attuning one to the wonders of nature-everything feeding everything in one complex, glorious cycle.
Alder from the gold country
In another complex, glorious cycle: I'm wearing more spoils from Nicole, the beautiful birthday dress she gave me when we met, and my tiny piece of the gold country from C.
Dressing down
As you may know by now, I love Gunnes, love wearing them even if there's no special occasions and particularly adore ones that can be appropriated for everyday use, like this one. To that effect and for its protection, I added a 70s denim shirt C. got for me from The Dump.
Practicality and beauty, all in one, is very much the essence of wild-crafting. It's literally walking in beauty, observing and educating oneself of one's surroundings. What joy!
Once I have the desired amount of nettles, I always dry a part of them, for those nettle-less months ahead. I find that it's easier to dry them little at a time, than to try to fill up the pantry in a single harvest.
my nettles! all mine...
The trouble is Kissa likes a bit of the old nettle sting remedy too.
what are you doing?
She says it makes her even more relaxed. (No but, seriously, the sting disappears once they've dried.)
About to pesto
Now as for that pesto recipe: the nettles can be supplemented with the more traditional basil, or even spinach, chard, kale, sorrel (mixed with some other green), or a mix of any and all of the above.

The recipe is vegan (no cheese-sorry guys!) and I use sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts for a couple of different reasons: 1)organic pine nuts are prohibitively expensive 2) they still come mostly from China (whereas sunflower seeds can have more local origins) 3) in spite being expensive and organic they can still give you pine-nut-mouth (true story! a friend at work ordered a whole box and got it-now she can't use them)
what u need plus salt
All you need for a dinner sized batch is (all measurements are approximations-I cook off the cuff mostly):
1 1/2-2 cups of olive oil
garlic to taste (i used 5 cloves-that might be a bit much for most)
1/2-1 cup of sunflower seeds,
5-6 cups of fresh nettles (you can blanch the nettles if you like-this means dipping them very quickly in some boiling water-this removes the sting for all nettle cooking, though you want to be careful not to loose a lot of the good stuff. The oil does the same so this step is not necessary for the pesto.)
salt to taste
I used to chop all this by hand (getting the sunflower seeds to desired texture can be hard), but now we have a blender (spoils from C.'s dad's move to New Mexico- but that's another story.), so I blenderize the ingredients, adding until desired texture appears. Don't blenderize too long though, sunflower seeds can congeal your concoction into a butter, after a time. Delicious and worth trying (increase the ration of sunflowers seeds if you want to try this-good with basil too), but not the intent here.
And voila! You have pesto. Good on pasta, pizza (my choice this time), or just plain toasty bread.
Word to the wise: nettle begins to spoil very quickly, and even with the oil and garlic it's best consumed within two days.
Ship shape
We'll, we're off to dinner (with some nettle pesto in hand ;), but I thought that before I go you should see what C. has been working on (when he wasn't carving into his finger). That's right: his very first bowl, filled with Meyer Lemons from Missa's (or should I say Lucas', Missa?) lovely tree.
Missa's sunshine
I hope that you are nourished and warm and loved. I hope that the folks suffering from the loss of homes and loved ones can experience some relief. I hope that if nothing else, we take from this earthquake the understanding that nuclear power is not the solution to climate change, but something disruptive, unreliable and damaging for generations to come. And if you're thinking of ways to contribute to helping those affected by the earthquake beyond good thoughts and prayers here's how (via the lovely Teacup Adventure):

2011 Sendai Earthquake / How To Help: President Obama released a statement earlier announcing that “[t]he United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial.” Below is a list of charities and relief organizations you can donate to in order to help bring aid to those affected by the worst earthquake in Japanese history.

  • The American Red Cross has set up a special designation for disaster relief efforts in Japan. To donate, click here, or text REDCROSS to 90999 to instantly donate $10.
  • International Medical Corps says it is putting together relief teams and supplies to aid Japan “and other affected countries.” Donate here.
  • Click here to donate to AmeriCares’ emergency relief response.
  • Reminder: Google’s Crisis Response Center / Person Finder.
  • Personally, I figure, no matter how broke I am, I can most always back up a prayer with a 10 dollar bill. But if I can't, a prayer is enough.


  1. I miss nettles. For some reason I never see any in our neck of the woods (and that is a figure of speech, as we have no woods to speak of here - major bummer). One of my favourite spring/early summer childhood memories from Finland is seeing the first nettles making their way toward the skies from the ground, when everything around them is sort of bare and mushy. Their first leaves look so delicate, so elaborate and fascinating.

    Love your nettle-picking dress and the denim shirt!

  2. i love so many things about this post, i hope i remember them all.
    1. i have a hairy bearded mountain man partner, too! i need to get some pictures of him on my blog. he is elusive. i think he has the same jeans that C. has.
    2.i love that you wear pretty, frilly dresses to stomp around in the woods. it makes me inexplicably happy.
    3. i'm really freaking hungry now.

    i don't know that i've ever eaten nettles, but i love chard and kale and all that sort of thing, so i need to try some.

  3. Where to begin.
    Okay, the outfit. So perfect. Darling, but practical. Practical, yet darling. The photo of you holding the basket standing in the middle of the path is one my favorites (as in, of all time).
    You have inspired me to visit my beloved nettles patch. Folks round these parts insist that wild nettles don't grow here, so apparently I have found the one true local source, small as it is. Okay maybe not, but I feel really lucky to have come across it. And I take from it very, very sparingly.
    It's crazy how quickly even dried nettle tea goes bad, even in very cold weather.
    What a powerful ally for you to have, and you are utilizing her so well. And have developed such a complex relationship with her. Good. And you know, with all the sadness and hardship and scariness in the world, a really grounding and cleansing and nourishing herb like nettles is just the thing.
    Finally- the bowl- amazing. Like actually. Good job C.

  4. I always enjoy your posts :) A lot.

    And that ship shaped bowl is great! Congrats to C!

  5. I use sunflower seeds in our pesto too for some of the same reasons. Although already mentioned, I am always very happy at seeing your pictures when you are in the woods. I also enjoyed seeing your garden. Some things are poking up in the dirt here and it just makes my heart sing. All of it reminds me we all are very fortunate in different ways.

  6. oh milla you are so inspiring in so many ways....first off wearing your gunnes day-to-day...i need to do that! mine mostly hang demurely in the closet, awaiting that show or dance party or special occasion. how dare i? they need a whirl through the woods, or even just a little trip to the store. i think i shall wear a practical one today! next, your wildcrafting pursuits. i have always so admired my herbalist friends and the farmerettes who can identify any growing thing. i have trouble with this, and feel a little fear and intimidation not knowing if i am correct. the only wild thing i regularly pick is blackberries! okay and maybe dandelion greens, and yet i know that many wondrous herbs and plants grow round these parts wonderfully alive and verdant and abundant. so you've inspired me to learn more and utilize more. and lastly of course dear old charlie and kissa, well their relaxation skills at a maximum are pure and true and perfect for cloudy days. c's bowl is GORGEOUS too, so glad to see that the results of his labors have been delightful and not only painful ;) love you deargirl, love to think of you up there in your radiant wanderings!

  7. thank you so much for your inspiring guidance and yay for nettles!
    as in Italy our goverment is totally pro nuclear energy I at least hope that this tragedy will shed much needed light on the horrendous risks involved.

  8. aw nice to meet you! you have some lovely treasures here. your forest and garden is magical. enjoy your surroundings! its beautiful. peace & love!

  9. I am in awe of two things specifically: one being your green thumb - always inspired by those who know how to nurture seeds and grow life that way, and two - your hair. It is, quite possibly, the prettiest mane of all of blogland.

    Oh, and then there's your denim shirt. I suppose that makes 3...

  10. What a fantastic post!!! I loved reading about nettles. I was questioning the "stinging" part as you began to talk about them.... and then you said it- they are the stingy kind. I'm so surprised they are such a versatile little plant with that sting factor! Thanks for sharing all the facts!

    Your dress is fabulous and I'm hoping to find one like it someday soon- especially since summer is approaching! Love the snuggling/relaxing pictures of your little family- kitty included! And what a rad bowl C made!!!!

    Might need to try that nettle pesto-though basil is so happy in my garden that I use it for pesto and anything else I can stick it in- especially caprese salad- Erick's and my favorite snack! I just snipped a handful of cilantro (the only thing I have growing) from the backyard and realized I need to get hoppin' on planting some new herbs!!! Think we're trying garlic and onions this year too! :D Happy Monday!!!

  11. Lovely to see you among your nettles again! Happy to hear that you are feeling more yourself. I too have been distressed with the events unfolding around us. Do you think it could be winter-ness mixed in? It's not even really winter here... so I have not excuses.

    I did actually buy a stinging nettle and plant it somewhere that I can not remember now... I did it have seen your post last year. Love this recipe too btw! I've done this with mustard greens and it was deliciously spicy. Do nettles have a unique flavor?

  12. I've been reading your blog for a little while now and it is so very interesting!
    The bowl is unbelievable, it looks great.
    Thanks for the pictures and the recipe about the nettles. Next time I get a hold of some I will try them this way :)

  13. I love your blog! Your life seems so much like the life that I've always imagined for myself (except I'd live in Ireland... dreaming!). I should try to find some nettle to harvest here in Idaho. I really appreciate the last bit on the Japan disasters- it's really awful and it's great to help however possible. I also love that your shirt is from the dump:) By the way: how do you find all these amazing gunne sax?! I searched through all my local thrift stores and couldn't find a single one!

  14. I've never cooked with nettles, only been stung by them. But you've got me curious! I absolutely love the pictures of you with your basket in the woods. Beautiful! And your kitty is so super cute too.

  15. well, that nettle pesto looks darn delicious! i don't know if we have nettles in my neck of the woods, i'll have to look into it. and might i add that you looking quite radiant in these photos. the dress is beautiful, as are the lush forests surrounding your home.

    c's bowl is gorgeous! wood working is so cool. he seems to have a talent for it :D

    so glad you are feeling better!

  16. glad you are feeling better and i love c's bowl! amazing. love seeing little kissa!

    all this earthquake talk has the folks here in sf riled up and freaked out...

    one of my best friends is married to a japanese guy and his family lives in the north. they are ok, thank goodness... but, funny story, his father was just about to get into some hot springs, stark naked, when the earthquake hit! his toe was hovering over the water and apparently he froze when he saw the waters rocking and had that panicky moment, "i'm i just run outside?!?" he ended up grabbing his clothes back in the changing room and pulling some of them on before running outside.

  17. Great post! As you say, things like going out for walks in nature are a great idea in tough times. I had one such walk among the autumn leaves and toadstools in the park the other day :)

  18. Hello...I am an American who is a long-term resident of Japan. I have been reading your blog for more than a year now and really enjoy your posts. I haven't really been online since the earthquake a week ago...even though my loved ones or I have not been injured, our everyday lives became surreal in an instant. I felt uncomfortable about checking out my favorite blogs again and I was saddened that most blogs went on talking about everyday things again without mentioning the devastating quake that killed so many. I really appreciate your kind comments about helping the quake victims and the importance of appreciating what we have...and oh yes....I like your dress and your plan about gardening this year as well cooking with nettles...thanks again

  19. Oh goodness, this comment is so overdue! Firstly, I love the the photo of Nap Master Flash (new nickname I just made up for him) and his cuddly companion. Also, his bowl is AMAZING, WOW, I feel so honored to have our lemons residing in it :D I'd say the lemon tree is both of ours because Lucas didn't plant that one, it came with the house. Finally, I've never tried nettles and now I'm quite curious, the pesto sounds yummy. I am also quite charmed by the thought of you in your adorable outfit thanking the nettles as you harvest, seriously it makes my heart smile. <3