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(post, Ruth Newman)
On Friday I was out for a tour of a local Ecological Reserve and found a gorgeous field of stinging nettles just ready for picking (outside of the reserve, no picking allowed inside!). They were about four to six inches high and so tender I could pick them without gloves. I got a few mild stings but nothing compared to what they will feel like in a month or two. I picked a good bunch and carefully packed them for the ride home. I also picked up a few fiddleheads I found along the way. When I got home I perused the internet for recipies and settled on a mish-mash of several nettle soup recipies. I didn't have any large onions but did have some onion dressing that I made earlier in the week (1/2 cup of olive oil heated in medium sauce pot on stove, put in one large onion cut up small, cook until onion is soft and sweet, take off heat, pour in a little cider vinegar and give it a quick whiz with the hand blender, leaving it a bit chunky, its amazing on just about anything) plus some green onions and garlic were the base. I sauted all of these together and then added the washed nettles until they wilted down. I added some leftover bean stock and cooked for 20 min. When everything was smelling great I took it off the stove and gave it a whiz with the hand blender and added some cream and some reserved green onion tops. It was a bit thin and I think it would been creamier with a potato added but it was still warm and satisfying after a long (rainy) day outside. The fiddleheads I sauted along with more of the onion dressing and garlic and at the last minute I threw in a bunch of spinach till just wilted. This warm garlicky salad hit the spot. This was my first time foraging by myself without an expert for anything other than berries and I think it went very well. My food tasted great and I felt proud that I had picked and cooked it myself.