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25 April 2010

Spring Delights

Herbal Vinegars and Stinging Nettle Soup!

I made the most delicious Stinging Nettle soup yesterday. The Nettle where I live is quite big and strong already, and though I don't have a huge amount, the plants have spread out nicely. I imagine I can probably make Nettle soup once a month as long as I cut just enough to have it grow back (although you could cut Nettle down to the ground, and it would still grow back). I harvested only the top six inches from the plants which are about three feet high. Since I didn't have too much Nettle, I supplemented it with local potatoes, leeks (from the grocery store), onions, garlic, carrots, and sea salt. Bringing the water to a vigorous boil, I added the Nettle and other ingredients and let it all boil pretty good for an hour, then turned it down some and let it boil gently for another hour or so. It was delicious yesterday and even better the day after. The key tip as I learned from Susun Weed last Sunday at her workshop "Hands on Herbal Medicine" is to put the Nettle right into the boiling water instead of putting the Nettle in the water and bringing it to a boil afterwards. That way the boiling water breaks the cell wall of the plant right away and allows the minerals and other nutrients to flow right into the water and also allows the Nettle leaves and stalks, which I cut up pretty good with a scissors, to get real tender. Never wash greens in cold water before cooking because that tightens them up and will make your greens very tough, which is like all the greens I've ever cooked in my life up until this point!

I had a great time, by the way, bringing some of my Brookdale Community College students up to Susun Weed's farm last Sunday. They have been using Healing Wise as the text for a research writing class I teach, and the opportunity to meet Susun and attend a workshop was really eye-opening for them. The interesting thing is I always learn something new, no matter how many times I attend the same workshop! This was the third of forth time I've been to that particular workshop, and Susun's teaching is always unique and relevant. You can see some of my students in the background in the picture below; they were a bit cold at times, as the sun played hide and seek and raindrops occasionally danced around us, but overall the weather was typical and fine for upstate NY in April, and we were so happy no prolonged rain occurred on that day. If you ever get a chance to attend a worskhop by Susun, I highly recommend it. Susun is a true American treasure and she is so open and accessible to all students who would seek her teaching!

As far as herbal vinegars, I have much Cronewort (Artemisia Vulgaris) and Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) all over the place, so I made those vinegars, and I also made some Violet (Viola Odorata) leaf vinegar as I have a lot of Violet this spring, too. Next will be Dandelion root vinegar! Vinegars are very easy to make. Just get your jars of varying sizes and pasteurized Apple Cider vinegar. Fill the jars with plant material right up to the top, allowing a little spring in the top if you push down, and add the vinegar to the top (I check the levels the next day or so just to see if I've put enough vinegar and usually add a little more). You'll be surprised at how much plant material you can stuff into those jars! Label and let sit for six weeks and enjoy. Don't use a metal lid, and if you do, put some plastic wrap or whatever under the lid because the vinegar will corrode the metal lid.

Fun stuff for Spring Blessings!

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