Nettles: A Delicious Spring Treat

One of my favorite things to do this time of year is go out and forage for wild spring greens. There are a variety of things growing that I enjoy: chickweed, dandelions, wild mustards and cresses. My favorite of the early edible weeds is stinging nettle.

Nettles have been used as food since ancient times. They are also used in herbal medicine for anemia and other blood ailments. They are rich in vitamins and minerals. They can also be used as a tea. The Amish kids next door taught me how to eat them raw! You pinch the leaves from the top and roll them up so the stinging hairs are inside. I like them best for soup.

Harvest nettles when they are young shoots. Be sure the wear gloves through out the process of harvesting, cleaning, and preparing. Remove the leaves from the stem before cooking.

Spring Green Soup

  • 6 medium potatoes, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1-2 carrots, sliced
  • One stalk celery, sliced, or crumbled dried celery leaves
  • 2 cups nettle leaves, or a mix of chickweed and dandelion leaves
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 ½ cups shredded cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion in a little butter or olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. And the potatoes, carrot and celery. Cover with water and cook until soft. Add the nettles. Cook another 10 minutes. Allow the soup to cool some. Puree in a blender. Return the soup to the pan. Add the milk. Heat to just below boiling. Add the cheese and stir until the cheese is melted. Add the salt and pepper.

Variations: I enjoy playing around with this soup. I’ve made this with cheddar, Swiss, hot pepper cheese, or no cheese. I’ve made it without the carrots and celery. I’ve used fewer potatoes for a thinner, greener soup.

Enjoying Winter Vegetables: Meet the Parsnip

Parsnips are one of my favorite vegetables. They are easy to grow and easy to store. And I think they are delicious.

Direct sow the seeds in spring. You can plant them early because they are cold-hardy, but I find they germinate better when the soil is warm. I plant them around the time of the first frost free date. Because they are slow to germinate and grow, I sometimes plants radishes or turnips along with them to mark the row. The turnips and radishes will be harvested long before the parsnips are full sized.

Parsnips are best harvested after a frost or freeze. You can leave them in the ground until you are ready to eat them. Dig them out all winter as long as the ground isn’t frozen solid. I usually dig a few out in the fall to place in storage; either a cellar or a refrigerator will do. They remain good in the ground throughout winter, but we can’t always count on a thaw in winter where I live. Dig whatever is left first thing in spring. They go to seed the second year and aren’t good after they start growing again.

If you haven’t had parsnips before, give them a try. They are available in most grocery stores. Add them to soups and stews. They give a nice fragrant flavor to the soup. You can also parboil them for a few minutes and saute them in butter. My favorite way to enjoy parsnips is to oven roast them alone or with other vegetables.

Oven Roasted Winter Vegetables

Peel and chop any combination of winter root vegetables, such as parsnips, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets.

Pre-heat your oven to 400.

Place your vegetables in a roasting pan. Coat with olive oil or melted butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You may also add herbs to taste. Thyme, rosemary, and garlic are good choices.

Bake until vegetables are tender and beginning to brown. This usually takes about an hour. Parsnips and carrots take a little longer than onions and potatoes. I usually put them in the oven to get a head start while I’m chopping the onions and potatoes. If I’m including Brussel spouts, I add them after the the other vegetables have cooked about 15 minutes.

This is a very forgiving recipe. I’ve roasted at a lower temperature when I had other things in the oven. Adjust the cooking time if roasting at a different temperature.

Feel free to be adventurous with ingredients. I even threw in apples the last time I made it. The apples cooked about 20 minutes; I added them at the end.

Be adventurous! This roast includes parsnips, caorrots, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, and even apples. It pairs well with any type of meat.
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