The Incredible Nettle

“In Scotland, I have eaten nettles, I have slept in nettle sheets, and I have dined off a nettle tablecloth. I have heard my mother say that she thought nettle cloth more durable than any other linen.”

18th c. poet Thomas Campbell

“Nettle oil preceded paraffin; the juice curdled milk and helped to make Cheshire cheese; nettle juice seals leaky barrels; nettles drives frogs from beehives and flies from larders; nettle compost encourages ailing plants, and fruits packed in nettle leaves retain their bloom and freshness.”

Margaret Baker from Discovering the Folklore of Plants

“Tibetans believe that their sage and poet Milarepa (AD 1052-1135) lived solely on nettle soup for many years until he turned himself green: a literal green man.”

Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal from Hedgerow Medicine

“Nettle magic is steeped in dualities: both fierce and soft, painful and restorative, common as weeds and priceless as jewels. Potent. Tenacious. Humble and often overlooked. Resilient.”

Terri Windling

 How do I love thee, nettles? Oh, let me count the ways!

You have fed my body and my soul, all the hundreds of hours I have spent with you over the last decades of my life. Harvesting you, singing to you, cooking with you on my woodstoves, both indoors and in my outdoor kitchen, boiling giant pots of you over a live fire in my firepit, with my now not-so little girl. Gazing at your beautiful hairs shining in the sunlight. Crawling under oak trees, cottonwoods and willows to get to your most abundant patches of sprawling life, my hair catching on branches, my bare ankles stinging, singing me awake to step more mindfully. You have been such a mentor to me. Teaching me, over and over again, how to pay attention to, and celebrate the abundances of each and every moment. How to seize the blessings of the day, and how to give back in return. How to nurture, value, and protect my own energy. Read more

Advertisements

Cooking with Dandelion Roots

I’ve cooked with a few strange roots in my time, but, before today, I’d never tried dandelion roots! My friend Sarah dug some up out of her garden and saved them for me, knowing me as she does! So I searched for a little encouragement online, and most of what I saw was about roasting up dandelion roots for a coffee substitute, or tincturing them in vinegar as a liver tonic. Both great things to do, that I haven’t tried yet! But I did see one mention of acting as if they were carrots. Which is exactly what I was hoping to see! Read more

Chickweed Breakfast in the Van

Happy chickweed season everyone!

I first read about this mineral rich plant in one of Susun Weed’s classic books, and first tried it one day years ago when Kiva and I were out in the White Mountains of Arizona on a plant expedition together. I remember how excited she was to find it, and how much I wanted to like it, but feeling rather “ho hum” about the flavor once I tasted it. It seemed to me a bit flat, not so interesting.

Read more

Doula Stew

Monica was eating breakfast before her cranial-sacral class this morning, I was sitting on the kitchen couch drinking chicory and enjoying the sunlight. We were talking about the possible births she has coming up, as Monica is studying to be a doula and is going to be on call this coming week. We were talking about what foods she might be able to have with her that would be easy to grab and go. She could be stuck at the hospital for 10 or more hours at a time.  A friend of hers is butchering a cow today, and I was suggesting that maybe we could make some jerky. Nut butters and carrots, other snacky types of foods came up. But I kept thinking about soup. Of course, after being summoned to the birth, one could stop at the co-op, wait in line, and get some soup that was made with great ingredients, but how much better would it be to have soup ready from home? Thawing frozen jars of soup in a hospital microwave? Well, looked it up, and it seems that it’s a better idea to freeze the soup in food grade plastic containers, dump it in a bowl, and then go from there.

Read more

The Canyon in Us: Me and Mattie, And Potato Nettle Soup

I

was out on the plaza watching my beloved busk with his one-man-band outfit a few weeks ago when I saw a woman fluttering by in a beautiful, long, hooded beige coat dress. It was funny, I only saw her back, but there was something so familiar about her… it was almost like seeing a little piece of myself. My rational brain just thought “Oh, it’s because she’s wearing something I would wear, that’s why I feel this.”

A few minutes later, she came back down the street and stood right in front of me. “Loba??” Is it you? WHAT are you doing here?”

(here’s a little moment of Mattie being her beautiful self here!)

A little yet-untold back story for my readers here, that some of you already know from reading the Anima blog I was a sporadic contributor to for at least a dozen years: Elka has only been my name for about the past four years. Before that, my name was Loba for twenty years. Before that, I had another name that I dearly loved, and still love. (You can find out what it was here in the second story that appears).

It took me a few seconds to adjust my eyes to see this person apart from the only context I was used to.  “MATTIE, is that you???”

I’d been thinking about Mattie, I’d been wanting to contact her, but had lost track of her email and didn’t remember her last name. I figured she was probably back in Montana, where she was from.

She was one of my all-time favorite helpers in the canyon, and stayed quite a bit longer than most of our other helpers did. I have many beautiful memories of us baking together in the outdoor kitchen, sharing songs, harvesting and cooking up the wild greens of summertime with endless panfuls of homemade corn tortillas, floating in the river, doing water dances in the moonlight with our lovely & mischievous friend Evangeline, sharing tears and fears, stories of our lives and some of the powerful moments we each had on our own with the canyon.

Read more

A Happy Spring Breakfast!

image

 

It doesn’t take long to make and eat a simple breakfast of eggs and vegetables. But how many days of the week do we actually do something like this for ourselves?  If you say “nearly every day”, yay for you! I’ve made these kinds of breakfasts many, many days of my life. And, back in the canyon, by the time I left, Rhiannon was very good at whipping up wonderful egg and veggie breakfasts for all of us. So when Monica made us this one, it was a very warm, familiar feeling, to be cooked for with love and attention! Read more

Preserving, Drying, and Cooking Lamb’s Quarters- aka. Quelites

To be honest, it took me quite a while to fall in love with lamb’s quarters.

But once I learned how to make “quelites”, a traditional Mexican dish, I became very attached. Maybe I even need them, like I “need” cheese in my life. Certainly, my enchanted pantry would be a sadder, less magical place without them.

This month, I’m attempting to gather up enough to see us through the winter. Many an evening I’ve been spotted by the local wildlife running barefoot upriver to the lamb’s quarters patch, piling up my greens for the night in an old sarong, then wrapping it up and slinging it over my shoulder for the mile walk back to the kitchen.

I have three ways I like to preserve lamb’s quarters or “goose-foot,” Chenopodium album, a plant that is known in the US Southwest more often as “pig-weed” or “quelites”. The Spanish word “quelites” refers to the traditional Mexican dish or the lamb’s quarters plant itself. It can also refer to amaranth greens, and they are often prepared the same way. Most often, they are boiled and then sautéed with minced onions and red chile, sometimes adding mashed beans near the end of the cooking time.

The first easy preservation trick is pesto. Lamb’s quarters pesto might sound odd, but its flavor is wonderful! I don’t love all herbal pestos, and I was skeptical, since I’m not a huge fan of raw lamb’s quarters…but this is one that makes me very happy. 

The second is to boil it and freeze it, which also works very well. Of course this takes up precious freezer space, however, so my third and favorite way to preserve lamb’s quarters is to dry them.

Read more