For the first time in many weeks we had nothing to do today. Well, Erin had a soccer practice at 9 a.m. but that hardly counted since I just drop her off at school for that and pick her up an hour later. Fiona decided to stay home with Noah while I dropped her off -- a first! One of our mail order book orders came; both Erin and I had picks in this order so we were very pleased.
The day was rainy. After a week of scorching temperatures intent on melting the alpine snowpack all at once we've been hit by a deluge. People farther south in the valley are evacuated or on evacuation notice due to the flooding, but we are sitting pretty up on our mountainside.
Sophie and Noah wanted some help starting work on building a printable paper pinhole camera so I did some cutting and glueing with them. Sophie and Fiona wanted to prime the large relief map of Euwy World that the older kids had started a couple of months ago and done the final relief work on a couple of days ago.
Then the phone rang and it was a friend of mine about to set off to go nettle-picking at a big nettle patch not too far from where we live. She has two kids about Erin's and Noah's age and wanted to know if we'd all like to come along for the fun. Surprisingly everyone was up for it. We dressed in long sleeves and long pants, found five pairs of gardening gloves, consulted our herbal books for inspiration and loaded ourselves into the van.
The patch was amazing -- several acres of what is a winter-time avalanche chute, just full of stinging nettle plants about a foot high. We were only there for about twenty-five minutes but managed to collect two sizeable cardboard boxes full of the plant tops. The kids seemed to have fun. Only one got 'stung' above the wrist of a glove and she was pretty brave about it.
Back at home I adapted a recipe for Nesselsoppa, a Swedish Nettle Soup. It was delicious, like a cross between spinach and asparagus with overtones of mild seaweed.
2 litres of stinging nettles, washed and slightly chopped (with gloves on!)
6 cups of water
2/3 cup of fresh chopped chives
2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
2 cubes of vegetable (or beef?) bouillon
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Place nettles in water and bring to boil. Boil until green and tender, approx. 5 minutes. Strain off and reserve liquid. Purée chives and nettles together in blender, adding as much reserved liquid as necessary for efficient blending. Dissolve bouillon cubes in remaining reserved liquid.
Melt butter, stir in flour over medium heat. Add reserved nettle water a little at a time. Add in puréed greens. Add balsamic vinegar and salt. Add pepper to taste.
I made a double batch of this soup and still have about two thirds of our nettles in the fridge. I'll dry some for tea, and make another batch of soup for the freezer.