Recipes from a Mountain Garden
By Alison Steele
Coming into Spring, the hiking paths are lined with nettles, miner’s lettuce, wild garlic, and plantain. It’s fun to forage for wild greens, adding nutrients to our bodies when we need it most! Mother Earth knows how to grow mineral rich food even if our gardens are still too shady to grow our own. I transplanted coastal nettles into a neglected part of the garden a few years back, and soon found myself tending an abundant supply of mineral-rich greens for teas and cooking alike. Shading my blueberry bushes and keeping the columbines in check, they are cheerful companions and grow happily out of the way along a fence. Pulled and pruned in the autumn for gathering new growth in the Spring, their curious prehistoric leaves entice for a naturally cleansing and nourishing Spring meal.
Nettles’ Song Soup
2 onions, roughly chopped
3 sticks celery chopped
3 large garlic cloves
3 large golden potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
4 T butter or sauteing oil of choice
1 t salt
Nettles, gather a colander full of fresh tops, about 5 cups
(clipped with garden gloves on!)
6 cups water
2 T lightly colored miso
Yogurt or creme fraiche
Calendula petals, chives, wild garlic blossoms
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat the butter or oil in a soup pot. Sweat the onions, garlic, and a teaspoon of salt until soft and translucent (not browning). Add potatoes and a teaspoon of salt and cook 5 minutes more. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Finally, add the celery and nettles and cook just until bright green and tender. Let the soup cool a bit, spoon in miso, then whirl with an immersion blender until creamy. Add hot water from the kettle until thinned to desired consistency. I only use about a cup to keep it thick and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with whatever edible flowers and herbs you have growing in your April garden. I used calendula and Georgina’s chives. Enjoy!
A native of Virginia, Alison Steele lives with her husband, two children, and cat in Boulder Creek where she raises quail, chickens, fruit trees, vegetables, and herbs. She teaches reskilling workshops in her garden including knitting, natural dyeing, soap making, and other forgotten folk crafts. Alison plays banjo and sings in Sugar by the Pound.
Photo of Nettles’ Song Soup by Alison Steele