Balcony Foraging – How to eat your weeds!

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Balcony Foraging - How to eat your weeds!

On Sunday a friend took us on a quick trip to her family’s olive grove to go foraging for St. John’s Wort. (You might have seen the picture on Instagram.) She dries this wild flower for making herbal infusions to drink and for making infused oil. St. John’s Wort oil did a fantastic job taking the itch out of my kids’ chicken pox last year, so I took the little bit that our family picked and started my own infused oil within an hour of having picked the flowers.

St. John's Wort

Alas, as much as we love nature, we don’t have even a square foot of land to call our own, so we have to make do with a potted garden on our two balconies. But that doesn’t stop me from doing a bit of my own foraging every so often! As you can see, I’m not always good at pulling out weeds, and they tend to get overrun by stinging nettle. The nettle weeds start off small and tender, like in the top photo…

Balcony Foraging - How to eat your weeds!

…and then they grow into a mini forest! Yikes! If you can believe it, there’s a little pomegranate tree somewhere in that mess.

Balcony Foraging - How to eat your weeds!

Everyone knows that stinging nettle, well… stings and we learn quickly to avoid it like the plague. But a lot of people don’t know that nettle is actually very healthy and delicious! Don’t worry about prickling your poor little mouth and throat; nettle goes limp upon cooking and loses its sting. And if you like leafy greens, you will love to eat these weeds!

Balcony Foraging - How to eat your weeds!

So grab your gardening gloves (or any other type of leather or thick-fabric gloves that you don’t mind getting dirty) and start pulling that nettle out by the roots! That is, of course, unless you want to actually grow it on purpose for future culinary use, in which case you can just cut it and leave the roots intact.

Balcony Foraging - How to eat your weeds!

When the nettle has grown big, the stalk gets tough, so I suggest you remove just the leaves by holding the top with one hand and gently pulling down the stalk with your other hand to pull off the leaves. Then compost the stalk and roots.

Balcony Foraging - How to eat your weeds!

See?! I told you that there was a pomegranate plant in there!

Balcony Foraging - How to eat your weeds!

When you have younger and smaller nettle plants, don’t do what I did here! Do pull it out by the roots, but cut the roots off right away! I didn’t do that and it took me forever to go through them all afterwards to cut them off.

Balcony Foraging - How to eat your weeds!

Wash off your nettle without touching it with your bare hands. At this point I switched to kitchen gloves.

Balcony Foraging - How to eat your weeds!

There are tons of way to cook nettle, but my favorite way is to cook it directly in bean stew or soup. I get my soup base ready first. Here I have a rather disgusting-looking mix of black beans and vegetable broth as it melts. (I always cook big batches of beans and broth and then freeze it in portions.)

Balcony Foraging - How to eat your weeds!

About 10 minutes before the soup is ready, cut the nettle with kitchen scissors as you hold it over the pot so that the pieces can fall right in. Every so often stir it around and put the cover back on. It will wilt and lose its prickly-ness quite quickly.

Balcony Foraging - How to eat your weeds!

And enjoy your fabulously delicious, healthy and low-cost soup or stew! This time I just threw some cubes of bread on top, but usually I cook my soup with grated carrot, chopped onion, celery, corn or whatever I happen to have on hand. The nettle adds an amazing flavor to the mix and provides lots of healthy stuff for your body! And to think that once you wanted to throw out all the nettle crowding your plants… I bet you’ll never think of your weeds the same way again!


Question of the day: Have you ever eaten weeds?

My father used to mortify his kids by picking flowers and eating them. Well, you know the saying: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Now I wish I had him on hand to teach me how to eat weeds! Seriously, though, if you are interested in foraging and using wild flowers and plants, I highly suggest the useful book by Elisa Nicoli, L’erba del Vicino*. You can find my review of some of Elisa’s books here. But sorry, for now her books are not available in English.

*This post contains affiliate links.

7 COMMENTS

    • Lo so che è terribile toccarla e anche i miei figli rifiutano di assaggiarla perché sanno quanto fa male toccarla, ma te lo prometto che non fa male se usi i guanti prima di cuocerla! E poi dopo è innoccua come uno spinacio!

    • Cool! I would love to learn more about what wild plants can be eaten. I’m always amazed when someone who knows about this stuff shows me just how many wild flowers and “weeds” can be eaten. But I get worried about picking them myself in case I get something that could make us sick!

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