The roadsides and the trails in the woods are lined with wild vegetables that the Indians who were on our beautiful island before us harvested and ate. We can enjoy them, too. My son Steve picked picked wild vegetables this sunny afternoon. He brought back lambs quarters and dandelion leaves and flowers for our supper salad. He took along rubber gloves and several plastic bags to put nettle tops in. If the horsetails had been still young and looked like white fingers, he would have brought a few of them for our supper vegetable. But no, it’s already too late in the spring.
Our high protein main dish is to be fishes, but we won’t haul them from Quartermaster Harbor nor the Sound. For one thing the dearth of sea birds tells us the fish are not there either. We’ll thaw and cook fish from our fridge. It will supply iodine as well as protein. Iodine is a necessary nutrient the American diet is notoriously short on, hence many thyroid problems, says Dr. Mark Stengler.
To harvest nettles, wear thick rubber gloves, take along scissors to snip the tender tops from the nettle plants. If you get nettle-stung anyway, chew up some dock leaves and apply the chlorophyll-rich paste to the site. Dock and nettle plants usually are found near each other. Lacking dock leaves, as soon as you come home, make and apply to the stings a paste of water dampened bicarbonate of soda. (That works for bee stings, too) When that paste dries, put some more on.
Makes 4 to 5 cups
4 cups nettle tops
2 (10 oz.) cans condensed chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 1/2 cups water
1 small potato (if allergic to nightshade vegetables, choose a sweet potato)
Using tongs, wash the nettle tops. Put them in a 6-cup saucepan with the liquids. Bring to a boil. Cook covered for 15 minutes. The sting cooks out. Meanwhile, nuke the sweet potato. When it’s cool enough to handle, peel and dice it.
Puree the nettles in a blender or in a food processor with a little of the broth and return that to the saucepan. Puree the sweet potato with some broth and stir that into the broth, too. Sample the soup and add salt and pepper to taste.
Lambs quarters may be cooked as greens or eaten raw in salad. Dandelion leaves with the bitter center rib removed can augment your lambs quarters, or be the base of another salad. Dandelion petals make a nice garnish. Olive oil and vinegar with a dash of salt and pepper make a simple vinaigrette.