Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Nature Principle

By Farmer Richard

I’ve recently been reading Richard Louv’s books including this one entitled The Nature Principle, Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age. He has spent years researching and experiencing the benefits of human contact and connection with the natural world.  There are both physical and mental health benefits from being exposed to nature including the ability to help heal from illness, increased mental capacity and ability to learn and increased productivity in the work place.  These benefits as well as others are seen even with the smallest and most brief, but regular contact with nature.  Richard Louv’s books offer hundreds of ways for us to combat what he calls “nature deficit disorder.”  The possibilities are endless, but many doable almost immediately.  Here are just a few of his suggestions ranging from urban renewal and suburban community planning to incorporating nature into school programs and curriculum, growing and connecting with our food sources and bringing nature into our home environments with something as simple as a piece of wood or a plant.

Farmer Richard sharing the farm's beauty with a young visitor
We plan to do a more in depth follow-up in the future, but for now we want to introduce this concept and make some obvious contributions.  As a CSA member with our farm, you have the opportunity to connect with nature in the form of your food every week and every day when you eat!  You have the opportunity to visit our farm at any time to witness and participate in the act of growing food as well as experience the environment in which it is grown. 

Another way you can connect with nature and your farm is to read our newsletters!  We go to considerable effort to educate, provide transparency about our life and efforts to produce food in the most environmentally friendly and worker friendly way with respect and care for our natural world and the people and creatures involved.  If you really want to immerse yourself, we can also offer you a campsite or cabin so you can stay overnight.  Bring your family for a weekend so you can explore and experience the beauty and treasures in nature that we experience daily.

Watercress growing in natural spring
As I write this on the back porch, I hear the chorus of tree frogs, the “spring peeper” frogs, and the whippoorwills calling.  Some nights you can hear the coyotes yipping and howling in the distance.  Every morning we are greeted by the hooting of the Great-horned owls that live in our pine forest.  This weekend, May 19, we are offering a very special opportunity to walk our land and woods with a very knowledgeable nature guide—“Little John.”  We will visit a special little creek that is a natural spring coming from the hillside.  We consider it a place of magic where we find special plants growing in the spring.  Perhaps we’ll even be able to harvest a little watercress and of course we’ll be looking for morel mushrooms as well! 

We’ll have more treasures to share with you, both ones we know about and others we discover along our way.  Just this last week I found some beautiful ground nests of the Eastern towhee bird at the very foot of one of our effigy mounds that is shaped like a bear.  I’d love to show you the delicate nest with its eggs and we’ll probably get to see the male and female pair that are caring for them!  Our valley is particularly beautiful and filled with energy in the spring.  You never know, this could be one of those life changing experiences, especially for young people, to experience the natural world in this season in a respectful and caring way.   We so badly need more “respectful and caring” people in this world of disrespect and hatred.  We hope you’ll join us!




May 17, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Asparagus


Cooking With This Week’s Box: 

Welcome back for another week of delicious spring cooking!  I want to start by thanking all of the members who have been posting their recipes and pictures in the Facebook Group.  You’ve been making some delicious creations and I appreciate the recipes you’re sharing with other members! 

So this week’s main focus is Asparagus!  In addition to the two recipes included with this week’s newsletter (see below), Food52 also has an interesting and diverse collection of asparagus recipes.  Asparagus is truly one of nature’s fast food recipes, so at the very least just give it a quick saute and serve it with your dinner. 

Sadly, this is our last week for ramps.  If you haven’t made Ramp Pesto or Ramp Butter yet, this might be the week to do so.  Both of these can be eaten when freshly made or you can freeze them in small portions and pull them out later in the year.  Ramp pesto is delicious when simply tossed with pasta for a quick meal and ramp butter is good on bread, steak and mashed potatoes. 

If this is your first time working with nettles this week, don’t be intimidated or afraid.  Check out last week’s vegetable feature on our blog which will guide you in handling them and includes a delicious recipe for Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream.  One of our members also shared this recipe for a Crustless Spinach & Feta Pie that some members made using nettles instead of spinach!  What a great suggestion!

This week I’m going to make this Smoked Trout Spread using chives as the herb of choice.  This will be great spread on a bagel for lunch or on crackers for a little afternoon snack.  Kelly also reminded me that I need to make our annual batch of Chive & Parmesan Popcorn while chives are in season!

Lastly, we’re excited to be able to include rhubarb in this week’s box.  While rhubarb may be used in both sweet and savory ways, I always need to squeeze in a dessert or two during rhubarb season so I’m starting on the sweet side this week.  I found a recipe for Rhubarb Picnic Bars that I’m going to make for our market crew snack this weekend.  On the same website there’s also a recipe for Rhubarb Spice Cake that looks really good!

Have a great week and enjoy the last of the ramps and the first of the asparagus.  Next week we are looking forward to sending some gorgeous heads of lettuce along with the first radishes of the season!—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable: Asparagus 

“Asparagus signifies spring regardless of the weather…..The closer to you asparagus is grown, the better it is.”  This is an excerpt from vegetable chef expert, Deborah Madison, in the introduction for Asparagus in her book, The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  Asparagus is a perennial crop that we rely on in the spring before other spring planted vegetables are ready.  It is very weather dependent and it’s hard to predict when asparagus season will start.  Once it does start producing, it responds dramatically to temperature.  If you have a hot day, yields may double or triple compared to a colder day.  We usually harvest at least three times a week, however sometimes we pick five to six days a week when it’s in peak production.   Typically we see a harvest window of about 5 weeks, so pace yourself and plan out all the recipes you want to make!

As a perennial crop, it takes about three years to establish a field.  During the first few years after asparagus crowns are planted, the goal is to build fertility in the field, provide adequate moisture, and allow the plant to capture solar energy and store it in the roots.  Once we do start harvesting, we continue to focus on making sure there is enough fertility in the field as well as moisture. We also focus on weed control, which is very important in a field that will have the same crop for multiple growing seasons.  In the world of conventional asparagus production, asparagus fields are often bare because they are sprayed with herbicide to keep weeds under control.  Our asparagus fields are actually green because we employ a method of cover crops and hand weeding to control weeds instead of using chemicals.  We sometimes also use mechanical cultivation, but the risk of damaging the root system is pretty great so we’re limited with this technique.  While cover crops help to build soil fertility and help to decrease weed pressure, they also compete to a certain extent with the asparagus.  We do also walk the fields and pull weeds by hand.  As you can see, asparagus can be a labor-intensive and challenging crop to maintain!  Our cost of production is greater than conventional production, so if you ever wonder why our price might be higher than other growers, this is why. 

Asparagus may be eaten raw, although it’s most often cooked.  It may be steamed, boiled, sautéed or roasted.  The lower portion of the stem may be a little tough.  If this is the case simply snap or cut that portion off.  You can save these pieces and use them to flavor vegetable stock.  Be careful not to overcook asparagus or it will become soft, mushy and a dull olive green color.  Cook it just until it’s bright green and tender.  If you are boiling or steaming it, either serve it immediately or put it in cold iced water to stop the cooking process. 

Asparagus pairs well with other spring vegetables including ramps, mushrooms, green garlic and green onions and peas.  It’s also often served with lemon, cheese, cream, eggs, mint, parsley, chives, dill, bacon, pancetta.  Many times I never get past simply roasting asparagus as it is good when just eaten in this simple form.  It is also delicious in a quiche, frittata, scrambled eggs, risotto, or savory tarts. 

We hope you enjoy the bounty of this year’s asparagus harvest and eat it to your heart’s content.  Remember, we’ll only have it for a few more weeks!

Asparagus and White Bean Salad with Feta and Lemon Dressing 

Yield:  2 servings as a main dish or 4 servings as a side dish

“Served with crusty bread, this salad makes a terrific meal.  White beans provide a delectable hearty-tenderness, without overwhelming the delicate asparagus.  Tangy feta, zesty lemon, and a touch of mint give this salad a bright and refreshing flavor.”

1 pound asparagus, cut on an angle in 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp chopped fresh mint
½ tsp freshly grated lemon zest
¼ tsp salt
⅛  tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked or canned white beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup thinly sliced radishes
2 Tbsp thinly sliced scallions (may substitute green garlic or ramps)
  1. Place the asparagus in a steamer basket, set over 1 ½ inches boiling water, and cover.  Steam until the spears are tender-firm, 4 to 7 minutes depending on the thickness.  Drain and place in an ice water bath (or under cold, running water) for a moment to stop the cooking. (Chef Andrea Note:  You may also roast asparagus.  Lay the spears on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and then roll the spears with your hand to coat them with the oil.  Roast for 10-12 minutes in a 350°F oven.  Remove and cool before cutting into smaller pieces and adding to the salad)
  2.  Put the olive oil, lemon juice, fresh mint, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until well combined.  Drain asparagus.
  3. Combine the beans, feta, radishes, and scallions in a large bowl.  Add the asparagus pieces.  Pour on the dressing and gently toss.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.  (Chef Andrea Note:  You can turn also add a can of tuna, poached salmon or cooked chicken to this salad and serve it as a main dish.)
This recipe is featured in Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables, by our friend, Farmer John Peterson.

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus 

“Whenever people ask what they can make a lot of easily and ahead of time for a party, this is what I suggest.  It’s endlessly versatile-you can vary the vegetable to go with the season.”—Chef Deborah Madison in The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Serves 6 to 8

Marinade:

                ¼ cup light sesame oil
                1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
                7 Tbsp soy sauce
                3 Tbsp Chinese black or balsamic vinegar
                3 ½ Tbsp dark brown sugar
                2 tsp sea salt
                2 tsp chili oil
                1 Tbsp minced ginger
                1 clove garlic, finely chopped
                ¼ cup chopped cilantro

Noodles and Asparagus

                2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on a diagonal
                1 (14-ounce) package thin Chinses egg noodles or rice noodles
                10 green onions, including the firm greens, thinly sliced (may substitute ramps)
                ¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted until lightly browned

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add salt and the asparagus.  Cook until bright green and tender but still firm, just a few minutes.  Scoop the asparagus out, rinse it under cold water, and set on a towel to dry.
  3. Pull the noodles apart with your fingers, add them to the boiling water, and give them a quick stir.  Boil until tender but not overly soft, tasting them often as they cook.  It should take only a few minutes.  Pour the noodles into a colander and immediately rinse under cold water.  Shake off the excess water.
  4. Toss the noodles with all the marinade and most of the onions, sesame seeds, and asparagus.  Mound them in a bowl or on a platter, then garnish with the remaining asparagus, onions, and sesame seeds.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Pollinator Packs…Doing Our Part


By Farmers Richard & Andrea



This week is our first of two deliveries for our Pollinator Packs.   These are a garden pack of nine different native plants including grasses and flowers that have been carefully selected by Richard.  These plants are beneficial for our environment for many reasons including providing habitat and food sources for a variety of species that provide pollination services, help control pests, and contribute to keeping our ecosystem healthy and in good balance.  The idea for these Pollinator Packs came about back in 2015.  In May 2015 the White House released the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.  Many individuals felt this was a groundbreaking step towards acknowledging and mobilizing action around rapidly declining pollinator populations within North America.  The importance of setting a national strategy to guide the protection, restoration, and enhancement of pollinator habitats is largely undisputed among scientists and others operating within conservation circles.  However, this national plan failed to address a selection of key considerations that appeared to have been left out of the national plan.  Primarily, questions surrounding pesticide use—including that of glyphosate and systemic insecticides like neonicotinoids, which have been directly linked to the decline of bee and other wildlife populations. 

As organic farmers, we do not use these agrochemicals, but felt it was important that we fully understand the impact these chemicals are having on our pollinating creatures as well as our environment and human health.  So, we launched a series of newsletters that we called “The Silent Spring Series.”  Over the course of six articles, we sifted through a variety of resources, journal articles, etc in an effort to educate ourselves about some of these agrochemicals and the direct impact their use is having on the people, creatures and environments where they are being used.  Sarah Janes Ugoretz authored these articles and fearlessly attacked these difficult topics.  She reviewed the research and eloquently presented her findings in a way that we were all able to understand.  We encourage you to take a moment to go back and read this series of articles as the information contained in them is very important to understand for our own health as well as the health of our environment, etc.  Links to each of these articles are as follows: 


About half way through this series, the content was feeling pretty heavy and a bit depressing.  We started asking ourselves, “What can we do?”  Sometimes these problems seem so grand and out of our control that it’s hard to know where to start, but we know that even small, individual efforts can collectively create great change and can make an impact.  So the final article in our series focused on the future.  Our goal with these articles was to leave our members with a sense of empowerment and some motivation.  Empowerment in the sense that, if we’ve done our jobs well, our members would walk away with a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding the use of agrochemicals and the depth of their impact.  As a result of being better informed, our hope is that our members would then be motivated to look at ways they could bring about positive changes within their own circles. 

We have extensive plantings of native grasses and flowers on our farm that we’ve established because we want to provide habitat and a food source that will attract and support a wide variety of beneficial creatures including bees, wasps, birds, butterflies, etc.  These creatures help to support a healthy, balanced ecosystem on our farm, they aid our efforts in controlling pests in our vegetable crops, assist with pollinating our flowering crops such as squash, melons, cucumbers, etc and they are a joy to watch and observe.  We know how to grow plants, so we thought perhaps we could grow these Pollinator Packs to share with our members.  In this way we are able to expand the benefit these plants can offer beyond our own valley and into the neighborhoods where our members live, work and play. 

So that is how Pollinator Packs came to be!  We didn’t plant them last year and we had quite a few members asking for them, so we decided to do them again this year.  We’re offering these, free of charge, to our CSA members and encourage each of you to consider where you might be able to plant these in your community.  Some members have larger garden areas and are able to plant several packs while others are more limited in their space and do something as simple as plant them in pots on their balcony or patio.  Every little bit helps and we guarantee you’ll enjoy watching these plants become established, grow and come back year after year.  Of note, all of the plants in the pack are perennials.

This year the contents of the packs are different from two years ago and will be a good complement to the previous selections.  Some of the flowers may not bloom until next season, so don't get discouraged if you don't see flowers this year.  We purchased all of the seed from Prairie Moon Nursery, so if you’d like more information about any of these plants or others you can visit their website.  They have a lot of interesting and valuable information to share.   

If you did not request a Pollinator Pack(s) for this week’s deliveries, it’s not too late.  We still have plenty of packs available and will be delivering them again next week.  If you’d like to join in on the fun, please email Kelly at csa@harmonyvalleyfarm.com and let her know how many packs you’d like us to send with next week’s deliveries. 

Here’s a little more information about the plants in this year’s pack as well as a diagram and pictures to help you identify each one:  

Diagram of plants in your pack

Side Oats Grama





Side Oats Grama:  This is an interesting grass that produces tiny flowers during its summer bloom time in August and September.  When the seed heads dry, they have an oat-like appearance.  It is a food source or larval host for at least five types of skipper moths.  It grows to about 2 feet high. 




Great Coneflower







Great Coneflower:  This is a large plant that can grow up to 6 feet tall and produces yellow flowers in June & July.  It does best in full to partial sun.










Smooth Blue Aster





Smooth Blue Aster:  This plant has smooth leaves with a tough stem that sometimes has a shady blue appearance.  It stands 4 feet tall and produces beautiful blue flowers over a long time from August through October.  It does best in full to partial sun.







Purple Coneflower




Purple Coneflower:  This plant is also known as Echinacea purpurea and has a wide range of medicinal uses. It grows to a height of 4 feet and produces purple flowers from July-September.  This plant is very attractive to bees, so get ready to see some action!  It does best in full to partial sun.





Silky Wild Rye





Silky Wild Rye:  This is a common woodland grass.  It is a thicker grass than the others in our pack and actively grows during spring and fall when soil temperatures are cool.  It grows to a height of 3 feet and does best in partial sun to shady areas.









Blue Sage



Blue Sage:  This is an easy, beautiful plant to grow in areas that are a bit more dry.  It grows to a height of 5 feet and produces blue flowers in August and September that are very attractive to butterflies and bees.  Because of its height, it has a tendency to flop over, so it benefits from being in close proximity to other plants that can provide some support or you may want to tie it to a stake to keep it upright.  If you brush up against the leaves, you’ll pick up the typical scent of sage. 








Blue-Ridge Buckbean





Blue-Ridge Buckbean:  This is a legume also sometimes referred to as Carolina Lupine.  This plant blooms early in the season in May and June when it produces bright yellow flowers.  It grows to a height of 4 feet, does well in full to partial sun and can thrive in drier soil.









Purple Prairie Clover




Purple Prairie Clover:  This flowering plant has a shorter stature growing to just 2 feet tall.  It produces purple flowers in July, August and September.  It does well in full to partial sun and drier soil.











Blue Grama Grass




Blue Grama Grass:  This is a drought-tolerant grass that will form a larger clump.  It actively grows during the summer when the soil is warm and only grows to a height of 12 inches.  It forms attractive blue seed heads in late summer to early fall.

May 10, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Nettles



Cooking With This Week’s Box: 


We have a few new items in this week’s box including one of our spring favorites, Nettles!  Don’t be intimidated by nettles, it’s just another vegetable that requires a bit of careful handling.  The benefits you’ll reap from them far outweigh the little bit of time you’ll invest in preparing them.  I’m excited to share two delicious nettle recipes with you this week.  The Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream and Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles  recipes are adaptations of recipes shared by members in our Facebook Group.  Both recipes have several components, but neither recipe is complicated and once you have the different parts prepared the final product comes together pretty quickly.  The pizza recipe is a bit on the rich side, so it would pair well with a simple, light spinach salad on the side.  The Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles is a great dish to prepare in advance and stick in the refrigerator.  It reheats well, so gives you a good, quick option for dinner on a busy night.

We’re fortunate to have a late spring which means we get to enjoy ramps again this week!  I am going to make a batch of Ramp Chimichurri this week.  This is great to have in the refrigerator as it has many uses.  I like to eat this with grilled flank steak and then use the leftovers in scrambled eggs or as a sandwich spread.  With the remaining bunch of ramps, I am going to make Chef Bri’s Spring Confetti Salad. This is a very light, simple salad that gets its flavor from ramps.  It also includes black Spanish radishes and you could add a little carrot as well.  This is a nice light salad to serve as a side dish or add some beans to it and turn it into a main dish.

I often overlook black Spanish radishes, but with limited vegetables to choose from this spring I’ve been challenged to find more ways to use them.  In last week’s newsletter we featured a recipe for Roasted Black Radishes with Brown Butter, Chives & Rice. This is a pretty easy recipe to prepare and makes great leftovers.  If you’re making the Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles recipe this week, prepare some extra rice and you can use it to make this recipe.  I also came across this recipe for Black Radish Pickles  I think these would be a great condiment to eat alongside sandwiches or added to spring salads over the next few weeks. 

This week I have my eye on a new recipe for Parsnip Soup with Toasted Almonds.  This is a simple, creamy soup that will make for a simple dinner and will reheat well for lunch the next day.  I also want to make one of my favorite parsnip recipes, Parsnips with Brown Butter, Pecans & Maple.  I like to serve this as a side with sautéed pork chops.

This week I’m going to use a small amount of sunchokes in the featured curry dish with nettles, but the remainder will be used to make Sunchoke Chive Soup, a recipe I developed when I was cooking for the crew my first year at the farm!  If you are one of those individuals who does better with smaller portions of sunchokes, you’ll want to enjoy this soup in small quantities.  I’m going to serve it with a Korean Spinach Salad that has hard-boiled eggs, bacon (optional) and a tangy, slightly sweet dressing.  This is a salad my mother used to make when I was a kid. 

Lastly, we are super-excited to be able to include asparagus in this week’s box!  I really enjoy this simple recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Bread Crumbs & Herbs.  We’ll enjoy this with over-easy eggs and a few pieces of bacon for Sunday morning brunch.

That brings us to the end of another CSA box.  I always enjoy seeing pictures and learning about the different recipes you’re preparing in your own homes.  Please feel free to shoot me an email with your latest creations or share them in our Facebook Group!

Featured Vegetable: Nettles (yes, the stinging kind...please read this feature for more information) 

We look forward to nettles every spring as they are one of our “Wisconsin Super Foods!” They are one of the most nutrient-dense spring greens we have available early in the season.  Please be forewarned that these nettles are the “stinging nettles” many might consider a weed.  They have little fibers on the stems that contain formic acid which will give you a “stinging” sensation if you brush up against them before they’ve been washed or try to harvest them with bare hands.  Washing the nettles will remove most of the stinging fibers and there is no sting remaining after they are cooked.  We have vigorously washed the nettles in your box and put them in a bag to make handling easier for you.  Even though we’ve washed them, I would still recommend you handle them carefully and avoid touching them with your bare hands prior to cooking them.  With a flavor similar to spinach, they contain a whole host of nutrients including protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, boron, carotenoids and iron.  They are also reported to relieve eczema and seasonal allergies. 

Nettle leaves are perishable, so it is best to cook them shortly after you receive them.  Even if you don’t want to eat them right away, it is better to store them in their cooked form for a few days until you are ready to use them.  The cooking water actually makes a beautiful tea, so don’t discard it.  You can drink the tea either hot or cold and mixed with honey and lemon.  It’s delicious and makes the cooking process dual purpose.  Nettles actually originated in Europe and Asia, so are a familiar vegetable in many of the cuisines from these regions.  They are often used to make soups, but you can also use the nettles in a pesto, to top off a pizza, or incorporated into a risotto or pasta dishes.  Nettle puree may be used in pasta or gnocchi dough to make a stunning appearance, or the nettles can be used in a ravioli filling.  Nettles pair well with cheese, cream, mushrooms and other spring greens.



Please refer to the handling instructions and tips that follow before you open your bag and use the nettles.  These guidelines will help you find success with your nettles!  If you do get a little sting while handling nettles, it generally subsides within an hour.  If the sting does persist you may find it soothing to apply a little aloe vera or make a paste with baking soda and water and put it on the affected area.

Please note, while most people eat nettles cooked, you can eat them raw as well.  If you choose to eat them raw, we would advise you to do so in a form that requires them to be chopped finely either with a knife or in a food processor, such as nettle pesto.  Some individuals may be sensitive to eating raw nettles, so if you have any hesitancy we’d recommend just blanching or thoroughly cooking the nettles before you eat them. Below we have outlined two methods for handling and blanching nettles.  Choose whichever method you prefer and don’t let a little extra handling deter you from eating this wonderful spring vegetable!

Method #1:  Blanch nettles whole with the leaves still attached to the main stem

Step 1:  Wash the nettles
Use the bag the bunch of nettles is in as a barrier between your hand and the nettles.  Hold the bunch of nettles with your hand on the outside of the bag.  Pull the bag back and over your hand to expose the nettles.  Carefully remove the twist tie and put the bunch of nettles in a sink of cold water.  You can use your bag-covered hand to swish the nettles around in the water.  Alternatively, you can use kitchen tongs or gloves to wash the nettles as well.  While we have washed the nettles at the farm, it is good to do so again after removing the twist tie.

Step 2:  Blanch the nettles
Blanching is a cooking process where a food, usually a vegetable, is cooked briefly in boiling water, then removed and immediately placed into iced water or placed under cold running water to stop the cooking process.  In the case of nettles, blanching is important to remove the sting from the nettles so they are easier to work with.

Bring a pot of water to a vigorous boil.  Using a pair of tongs, remove the nettles from the sink of water and transfer them to the boiling water.  Submerge the nettles completely in the water and boil for about 2-3 minutes.  The nettles will wilt and turn bright emerald green.  Remove the nettles from the water and put them into a colander.  Run cold water over them or plunge them into a bowl with iced water. 


Step 3:  Prepare the leaves for use
Now that the nettles are cooked, you can handle them with your bare hands.  Remove them from the cold water and squeeze out all the excess water.  Using a paring knife or kitchen shears, cut the leaves and any small stems off the main stem.  Discard the main stem and the leaves are now ready to use!

Method #2:  Remove the leaves from the main stem before blanching
Step 1:  Wash the nettles
Use the bag the bunch of nettles is in as a barrier between your hand and the bunch of nettles.  Hold the bunch of nettles with your hand on the outside of the bag.  Pull the bag back and over your hand to expose the nettles.  Carefully remove the twist tie and put the bunch of nettles in a sink of cold water.  You can use your bag-covered hand to swish the nettles around in the water.  Alternatively, you can use kitchen tongs or gloves to wash the nettles as well.  While we have washed the nettles at the farm, it is good to do so again after removing the twist tie.


Step 2:  Cut the nettle leaves from the main stem
Use the bag as a glove so you can pick the stems up individually.  Using kitchen shears, cut the leaves and small stems away from the main stem.  Collect the leaves in a bowl and discard the main stem. 

Step 3:  Blanch the nettles
Blanching is a cooking process where a food, usually a vegetable, is cooked briefly in boiling water, then removed and immediately placed into iced water or placed under cold running water to stop the cooking process.  In the case of nettles, blanching is important to remove the sting from the nettles so they are easier to work with.

Bring a pot of water to a vigorous boil.  Using a pair of tongs, dump the nettle leaves into the boiling water and use the tongs to make sure they are fully submerged.  Boil for about 2-3 minutes.  The nettles will wilt and turn bright emerald green.  Remove the nettles from the water using tongs or a slotted spoon and put them into a colander.  Run cold water over them or plunge them into a bowl with iced water. 

Step 4:  Prepare the leaves for use
Now that the nettles are cooked, you can handle them with your bare hands.  Remove them from the cold water and squeeze out all the excess water.  The leaves are now ready to use!




Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream 


Yield:  One 12-14 inch pizza


½ bu ramps*
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp dry white wine
½ cup heavy cream
Pizza dough for one 12-14 inch pizza
1 bunch nettles
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 oz fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 oz mozzarella, shredded or thinly sliced
Parmesan cheese, for serving


*If ramps are not available, substitute 2-4 stalks of green garlic or 2-4 spring scallions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.  
  2. Clean ramps and separate the greens from the white bulbs.  Thinly slice the leaves and set aside.  Finely mince the bulbs.  
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Add the minced ramp bulbs and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add the white wine and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the heavy cream and ⅛ tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Simmer over low heat until the mixture is reduced to about half the volume and has thickened.  The sauce should coat the back of a spoon.  Remove the cream mixture from the heat and stir in the ramp greens.  You should have about ½ cup of cream sauce.  Set aside.
  4. Prepare the nettles by first washing them in a sink of cold water.  Then, using a kitchen shears, trim the leaves from the stems and collect them in a bowl.  Discard the stems.
  5. In a medium saute pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and sautè just until softened.  Add an additional ½ to 1 full tablespoon of oil to the pan and then add the nettle leaves.  Season lightly with salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan for 2-3 minutes or just until the nettle leaves are wilted.  Remove from the heat.
  6. Prepare the pizza dough.  Roll or press the dough into a 12-14 inch circle and place on a pizza stone or baking sheet dusted with cornmeal or semolina to keep it from sticking.  Prebake the pizza crust for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven.  Spread the ramp cream evenly on the crust, being sure to take it all the way to the edges.  Next, spread the mozzarella cheese on top of the cream.  Evenly spread the nettle and mushroom mixture on top of the cheese.  
  7. Put the pizza back in the oven and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown, the cheese is melted and the cream is bubbling.  
  8. Remove the pizza from the oven and grate Parmesan cheese over the top.  Cut and serve.

Note from Chef Andrea:  This is my adaptation of a recipe entitled “Pizza with Garlic Cream and Nettles” which may be found at foodandwine.com.  My version has more cream sauce and toppings than the original recipe and is rich, but balanced.  If you prefer a drier, lighter pizza, refer to the original recipe.

Coconut Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles 

Yield:  4 servings

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
2 ½ tsp mild curry powder
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
1 (2 ½ inch) piece ginger, peeled
4 garlic cloves or 2-3 pieces green garlic, ramps or scallions, lower white portion only
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp coconut or vegetable oil, divided
½ cup sunchokes, small dice*
½ cup black Spanish radish, small dice*
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 bunch nettles
¼ cup raw cashews, chopped
1 ½ tsp yellow and/or black mustard seeds
1 cup finely minced chives
Cooked rice, for serving

*You may substitute other root vegetables (such as carrots or parsnips) if sunchokes and black Spanish radishes are not available. 
  1. Slice chicken into 1-inch pieces and place in a medium bowl.  Add curry powder, 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper.  Mix the spices with the chicken and set aside.
  2. Place coconut milk, ginger and garlic (or green garlic, ramps or scallions if using) in a blender and process until the mixture is very smooth.  Set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat.  Add the sunchokes and radishes and cook, stirring periodically, until the vegetables are tender and starting to brown.  Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes or just until the chicken starts to brown just a bit.  Add the chickpeas and the coconut milk mixture to the pan and bring it to a simmer.  Simmer for 7-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.  
  4. While the curry is simmering, prepare the nettles.  First wash the nettles in a sink of cold water.  Then, using a kitchen shears, trim the leaves off the stem and collect them in a bowl.  Discard the stems.  Once the sauce is thickened, add the nettles to the pan and cover just until the leaves have wilted.  Remove the lid from the pan and stir to combine.  Taste the sauce and season to your liking with salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Lastly, heat 2 tsp oil in a small sautè pan over medium heat.  Add the chopped cashews and mustard seeds. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.  Immediately transfer mixture to a small bowl.
  6. Serve the curry mixture over rice and garnish each portion with some of the cashew & mustard seed mixture as well as 3-4 tablespoons of minced chives.
Note from Chef Andrea:  This spring curry recipe was adapted from a recipe entitled “Coconut Chicken Curry in a Hurry” which may be found at epicurious.com.  While there are several components to this recipe, it actually comes together pretty quickly.  This is a good recipe to make in advance and then refrigerate the components individually.  When you are ready to eat, simply reheat the rice and curry mixture and add the garnishes before serving.  The fresh chives and the cashew/mustard seed garnish are a nice touch on the final dish.