As I’ve written before on this blog, nettles (Urtica spp.) are important food plants for birds, both due to insects and their larvae feeding on them in summer and the nutrient rich seed in winter. Today there was a small flock of redpolls (gråsisik) feeding on the seed on a small patch of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) that I’ve been encouraging just below the house and in good view of the living room.
A group of seeding nettles strategically placed in view of a living room window provides a little entertainment in winter ( no, I didn’t plant them, but I deliberately didn’t cut them back). This is important food for various finches in winter including bullfinches (dompap).
Last night we made a green pea soup and apart from the Hablitzia (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde), I used perennial vegetables growing in a wild part of the garden. With little or no help from me there’s a bounty of wild edibles in this area under wild hazels (Corylus avellana) and this made for a delicious pea soup with masses of greens. Campanula latifolia is documented as used in spring soups in the 16th century in my area in Norway and Heracleum shoots are also a tradional soup ingredient, in particular Russian borsch now thought of as a beetroot soup was originally made with hogweed shoots.
Urtica gracilis (often classified as a subspecies of stinging nettle, Urtica dioica subsp. gracilis) is a widespread nettle species in North America including Canada and Alaska. It has many local names including slender nettle, California nettle and American nettle. This year, my tallest nettle is currently over 2.9m high!
It was (and is) an important plant of the first peoples throughout the continent from Vermont to Alaska,used as a vegetable, medicinally and, most importantly as a fibre plant, including fishing nets!. One native use I noted was “Rubbed on the bodies of sealers to keep them awake at night” :) (Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotany has a long list of uses)
My slender nettle has almost no stinging hairs, and, in general, has much less than stinginess than the introduced Urtica dioica subsp. dioica (stinging nettle) and Laportea canadensis (Wood Nettle; see my book Around the World in 80 plants). It is unisexual ( I seem to have just one sex as it doesn’t produce seeds…)
Added 300917: The friend in Granville, Ohio who sent me the seed of this nettle writes: “I collected the Urtica gracilis along the back of my property, near an old railroad (now a bike trail). It’s a common plant in “waste places”. I’ve never seen the plants grow that large here. Could your additional sunlight be to blame?”
Sand leek (rocambole) or Allium scorodoprasum gives bigger yields here than leeks, so it’s not surprising to learn that this perennial onion was probably cultivated by the Vikings (it is found naturalised near many old Viking settlements in Scandinavia) and I believe it is the original “geirlauk” (meaning spear onion) and the root of the word garlic in English… See also pages 215-217 in my book!
I hadn’t noticed the red base to the stems seen in these pictures before…
I used it in a quick scrambled egg dish together with Amish onion (Allium x proliferum), sorrel flower shoots, ground elder (Aegopodium), nettle (Urtica dioica), Hydrophyllum virginianum (water leaf) with golpar spice.
These pictures can also be seen on my 700 plus album of Allium pictures on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150966880345860
Almost 2 years ago on 29th April 2014, this quiche features perennial vegetables, starring Hablitzia / Stjernemelde, Allium victorialis / Seiersløk, Ground Elder / Skvallerkål, Stinging Nettle / Brennesle, Garlic / Hvitløk and homegrown chili, with a 100% wholemeal barley, rye and spelt crust, parmesan cheese and served with Jerusalem artichokes and Blue Congo potato and topped with dried with dried Alpine Bistort / Harerug bulbils!! Doesn’t get much better!!
Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden