Wednesday, April 18, 2012

CSA Share: Nettle Pesto

The winter CSA share I signed up for through Greensgrow Farms had its last pick-up this past Saturday. While the slog through the winter was a bit tough, I must admit, the last pick-up showed signs of spring: asparagus! dandelion greens! stinging nettles!?

Stinging nettles, if you have never encountered them, sting you when your skin comes in contact with them. You don't want to run into them in the wild or pick them up at the farm stand with your bare hands. The nettles have little hairs all over the stems. Some of the hairs contain chemicals, such as formic acid, which cause excruciating pain when you touch them.

But, I don't have first hand experience with this. The nettles I got in the CSA came in a plastic bag with the instructions to dump the nettles directly from the bag into a pot of boiling water, which I did. The nettles only need about a minute in the boiling water to denature the stinginess. After that, you can touch them without fear.

I then poked around the interwebs, looking for something to do with the nettles. I'm a bit of a leafy greenaphobe, though I know I shouldn't be. Spinach, quite honestly, terrifies me. Collards do a bit as well. So I have to admit that the idea of eating nettles was a little frightening. It also did not sit well with my partner, who flat out refused to eat them (more on that later). I wanted a recipe that would let me enjoy the green nettles without gagging on them.

Then, I found this recipe for pesto over on a blog called Hogwash. I like pesto. It makes frightening green things less frightening. So I tried it, with farafelle pasta.

And it was pretty good. Considerably more mild in flavor than basil pesto or a kale pesto I've made before. The best part of it: I told my partner we were having pesto for dinner. And he ate it without a comment. I don't think he knows the green part of it was nettles. So, let that be a lesson, people. The best way to hide veggies is in pesto.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Gardentime 2012: Let's Begin

I can't believe that this is the third year I've been writing about my little urban garden. This scale, I've scaled back from the insanity that was 2011 but am still planning on more than I did in 2010. Having a backyard that is about 100 square feet really puts a limit on things, a limit I've ignored in the past, often to deleterious results.

The plan for this year includes:
2 hot pepper plants
a myriad of herbs

The peas, carrots and arugula are already in in the ground. This year, I went for Tom Thumb peas, which only grow to about 8 inches in height. They are ideal for containers. I hope they do not crowd each other out or turn in a giant tangled mess, as has been my experience in the past.

I planted them at the beginning of March. The plan is to pull them out once they start withering in the heat and replace them with a hot pepper plant and some basil.

The super mild winter we had meant that I didn't too very much to prepare my herbs for the cold. I tucked a few perennials in the corner along the yard's wall and against the wall of the house. All but the chocolate mint made it through. I'm particularly impressed by the sage, as that was the plant I had the least expectations for. But it's come back quite impressively, and it's only early April.

Finally, I've gotten some new herbs going. I added a lemon thyme because it smelled nice and word on the street says that it deters the cats. To replace the chocolate mint that died, I got a new one. Fingers crossed that it won't die as well. I've also planted some calendula seeds in a larger pot.

What's with the chicken wire over the blue pot? It's an attempt to keep the alley cats from digging up the soil and using the pot as a litter box. Hope that I can remove it once the plant grows large enough.