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Stinging soup

(article, Caroline Cummins)

When I was a kid, my mom read somewhere that nettle soup was good for you and sent me out to collect the fuzzy, stinging leaves. She wrapped my five-year-old hands up in gloves and my arms in long sleeves — but not quite long enough. The results were a basket of crushed nettles and a bracelet of itchy red welts around each wrist.

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I haven't eaten nettles since. But now that winter (at least in the northern half of the U.S.) is almost over, those angry green weeds are sprouting skyward, ready to be gathered and defanged by cooking down into grassy-tasting soup or ravioli filling. 

And that's just the start of the season for the wild edibles of early spring, which include dandelions, watercress, miner's lettuce, knotweed, ramps, wood sorrel, lamb's quarters, garlic mustard, fiddlehead ferns, burdock, Jerusalem artichokes, and morels, among other treats.

For tips on identifying, collecting, and preparing wild foods, check out the following books: Stalking the Wild Asparagus and The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook. And for some deep thinking about the meaning of "wild" versus "cultivated," check out this recent meditation from the Boston Globe._

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