every so often as I’m harvesting to admire the amazing facets of each leaf; the beauty of their (stingers-what is the actual name of them Kiva?) shining in the sun.
was still so yummy! I put the mortar-full out for an Animá snacktime with some homemade corn tortillas and it disappeared in a flash. Nettles will never fail to amaze me.
We harvest huge quantities of Nettles on these goodnettle years-- sometimes well over a hundred pounds. We harvest the young plants and dry the tops whole to use for garnishing soups, but the vast quantity of our Nettles are harvested when the plant is about a month shy of seeding, usually about one to three feet tall. Nettles that are harvested after seeding can cause kidney trouble in sensitive folks, so resist the temptation! We boil and bag many pounds of Nettles for the freezer, and some we dry for infusions. We lay the whole plant out on large tarps out of the sun and turn every day till they’re dry, then strip the leaves and store in buckets. Of course if you’re drying a smaller amount you could hang them in small bunches, or spread out the leaves in flat baskets or trays.
Fir and Pine It was Kiva’s dedication to finding us the perfect bioregional morning beverage (her now-famous Acorn-Fir Tea!) that first got us harvesting White Fir and Ponderosa Pine like crazy! Fir and Pine are both wonderfully easy to harvest and dry. We go up to the mountains to harvest many branches of our favorite species, and strip them in the weeks that follow. After stripping, it works well to spread them out in shallow cardboard boxes (or use trays or baskets for smaller quantities) and simply stir them around every few days until they feel dry. Then they can be stored in jars and used for tea, making syrup, vinegar, or flavoring soups and any number of foods. Anything that’s good with the piney flavor of Rosemary is good with Fir or Pine!
Before I had the luxury of freezer space in town, I used to make large amounts of dried Nettle paste for cooking purposes. I would cook giant potfuls of the whole plant, let it cool, and pull out the toughest stems. Then I would drain out the broth (and use for soup), squeeze out the excess water, and grind the cooked nettles on a metate that was found on our land. In later years I discovered that a blender worked just as well, although lacking in the manyleveled joys of grinding ancient plant matter on ancient stone. Anyhow, after grinding the Nettles to a paste, I would spread the paste onto cookie sheets and lay it out to dry in partial sun, and use for soups throughout the year. Often I would add salt, minced garlic or other spices or herbs to the paste before drying. It was always good to know that even in the dead of Winter, Nettle soup was still a possibility. I also loved to make Nettle gravy with the dried nettle paste to serve over mashed potatoes. Can’t tell you how many good ‘ol Catron County boys I won over to the flavor of Nettles with that-there gravy over the years! and I’ll tell you what-- that Nettle paste is some hardy stuff-- it seems to keep about forever, stored in the dark, in glass jars! I had some around for so long I was tempted to toss it, but before I did I put it to the taste test. I soaked it in hot water, ground it in my mortar, and mixed it with creamy things, Preserved Lemon, oil, and garlic-- it
See the next article for some of my favorite things to do with dried Quelites!
¡Quelites! I’ll never forget the night I fell in love with Quelites. I’d cooked with them plenty of times, and liked them pretty well, but it wasn’t until I ate Filiberto’s Quelites that I experienced their bliss-provoking potentials. Filiberto was a tough little hombre from Peñasco, in Northern New Mexico, one of the only people I’ve ever seen to pick Wolf up from behind and crack his back! His girlfriend was staying with us for a while, and one night when he was visiting he insisted on making supper for all of us. I didn’t know quite to expect, but I was amazed by every single thing that he made, especially his Lamb’s Quarters, prepared in a traditional New Mexican manner with onions and chile. I just kept going back for more until, I do believe I polished off the rest of the panful! I wrote down his method for getting the Lamb’s Quarters to that state of perfection, and with a few little changes I’ve been cooking them that way ever since! Of course, over the years I’ve worked out countless variations and fun ways to use the Quelites in other dishes.