- All Blue Potatoes
- Cipollini Onions
- Black Beans
- Delicata Squash
If you make it to the pick-up this week, you will notice one of the vegetables surrounded by warning signs and guarded by a glove-wielding farmer. The reason for the extra caution is that the stem and underside of the leaves of this plant is covered with tiny hair-like needles full of venom that will sting you if you touch them. They are called Urtica Dioica or “Stinging Nettles”. And yes, they are delicious.
You may know this plant, if you’re a fan of competitive eating, by it’s association with the World Nettle Eating Championship—a competition during which contestants eat the raw leaves off of as many stinging nettle stalks as they can in one hour. The competition, which is said to have begun with an argument between two farmers about who had the tallest nettles on their farm, came to fruition when one of the farmers said that if anyone had in their field a nettle taller than his 15’6” stalk, he would eat it. We do not recommend trying this.
We did not harvest the nettles in your share today from the farm, but instead found them in large lush patches along the banks of the forested streams bordering our farm.
Nettles have been used both for culinary and medicinal purposes since ancient times. Made into tea, topical creams, or tinctures, the medicinal claims range from preventing hair loss to lowering blood pressure.
Nutritionally, nettles are a powerhouse. They thrive in rich, moist soils and are packed with vitamins and minerals. Their protein content is exceptionally high for a leafy green vegetable.
And what about those stinging needles that I mentioned earlier? Well, it turns out that the stinging hairs, which contain a cocktail of neurotransmitters and acids that cause the painful stinging sensation, are rendered wholly benign when cooked or even blanched in boiling water for a couple of minutes.
What’s left after a light cooking is an interesting, nutritionally rich, spinach-like green with a flavor somewhere between spinach and cucumber that can be used in myriad ways and has been one of the surest signs of spring for our culture since the time of the Greek slave and storyteller Aesop ,which is believed to be between 560 and 620 BCE. So on that note, I will leave you with one of Aesop’s notorious fables:
The Boy and The Nettle
A boy was stung by a Nettle. He ran home and told his Mother, saying, “Although it hurts me very much, I only touched it gently.”
“That was just why it stung you,” said his Mother. “The next time you touch a Nettle, grasp it boldly, and it will be soft as silk to your hand, and not in the least hurt you.”
Whatever you do, do with all your might.