When they first shoot up, the purple tips of new spring nettles curl to a point with a frill and swirl, like soft serve ice cream. I went trimming nettle tips last night, from the patch in the back 1/4 acre. Nettle, mint, and thistle – this is how the garden wants to grow. All winter the sentinel plants have been silent, rooted beneath the soil and waiting. And in this interminably slow spring, they are the first heralding of all the wild green sprouting to follow.
And they will win. I know that now. last spring I was still hopeful that some tugging and clearing on my part would balance the scales. Then I watched the the skin on my arms burn and blister from thistle toxin, felt the nettle sting reverberate for days on the pad of my thumb, tasted the mint frolic from the mound by the hammock, and accepted that something in this soil, stronger longer deeper than mere human insistence, would persevere to make mockery of my intentions.
Good to know where I stand.
The mint I’ve made my peace with, easy to do with mint: harvest and dry, muddle fresh into Hendricks gin and tonics, sip in the hammock while gazing upon the slow passing of an afternoon.
The thistles – I’m soliciting advice, from all sides. Being Scottish, I may take a certain pride of association with their ambitious tenacity, but mostly they make me nervous.
The nettles – well I’m harvesting them for tea, and offering a nettle soup recipes from last year’s Spring Co-op newsletter. They are full of calcium, magnesium, chromium, iron, and B vitamins. Harvest them before they flower. Wear gloves.
1 quart young nettle tops, rinsed *5 cups stock or water * 1/4 cup cooked brown rice * 1 carrot * 1 onion * 1 celery * 2 cloves minced garlic * 1/2-1 cup warmed milk if you want a creamy soup * olive oil for sauteing * salt and pepper to taste
Pick and clean the nettles. Slice onion, carrot and celery; saute in oil with garlic. Add rice and toast briefly. Add water or stock and bring to a boil. Add nettles and simmer 10-15 minutes. Blend, add warmed milk, season with salt and pepper.
For straight up nettle mint juice:
Pick, dry and crush 4 parts nettle to one part mint and treat as loose leaf tea. Heating will lose you some nutrients, so you can steep the mixture in a glass jar for 10-15 minutes and drink cold.
Dandelion remedies, coming up next…