What's Coming to Market?
He Sells These Shells is back this Sunday. This is Dave's last Hillsdale appearance for a while. He returns to the Milwaukie Farmers Market next week. MiniTree and Bakeshop are taking this Sunday off and return on May 4th.
IN THIS WEEK
He Sells These Shells
OUT THIS WEEK
Bakeshop back May 4
Betsy's Best Bar None back in June
MiniTree back May 4
Visit our Availability Page for more information and the full list of farmers and vendors coming to the market this Sunday. The page will be updated through Saturday evening. Check our Twitter feed for Sunday morning updates.
The Fat Of The Land
Beauty and the Beast
Wild foods are not for everyone. Their collection can be perilous—from the ruggedness of the landscapes where they grow to the ambiguities of accurate identification—and their flavors are often bold. Wild foods, even in romanticized print, sound wild, as if they belong to a more ancient version of ourselves, relics from leaner times. Herbal medicine maintains an appreciation for their complex chemistry, but we have otherwise written them off as a novelty food, if we consider them food at all.
Perhaps no single wild plant both satisfies and challenges the contemporary reputation of wild foods as much as stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). A weedy perennial found on every continent but Antarctica, nettles have long been collected for food, medicine, and fiber. Their use can be traced deep into human history—samples of nettle cloth have been found in Bronze Age excavations—and fragments of their extensive lore linger today. Nettle extracts are used in some commercial soaps and shampoos, and nettle tea is marketed as a popular natural remedy for spring allergies.
Go to pick a stinging nettle and it will remind you of its wildness. Covered with the botanical equivalent of hypodermic needles, nettles insert irritants under the skin, causing welts that can last for days. They prefer rich soils near streams, wetlands and moist woodland and meadows, with a wider range in regions with abundant rainfall.
In the kitchen, their sting is easily tamed. Boiling or steaming the leaves for a few minutes, letting them soak in cold water overnight, or laying them out to dry until brittle are simple techniques to nullify their irritants and transform nettles into a versatile ingredient. Nettles become bitter (and less nutritious) the longer they are cooked. Short blanching times (3-5 minutes) yield the tastiest greens, as tender as the finest spinach but with a more complex flavor profile: nutty and rich with a fresh, surprising sweetness not unlike a cucumber’s.
Nettle’s intense flavor goes a long way, making it an excellent component in creamy soups and sauces, including the popular nesto (nettle pesto). Its silky texture and richness give depth to starches like polenta, risotto, noodles and gnocchi. Nettles may stand in for all or part of the spinach in recipes such as spanakopita or Aloo. Dried leaves can be steeped for tea, or crumbled into powder and used as a seasoning.
We would all do well to incorporate nettles into our diet, as they are an unusually rich source of nutrients. Fresh leaves contain up to 20% protein (dried leaves up to 40%)—more than any other known leafy green—and as a source of essential amino acids, nettles are comparable to beans and chicken meat. A hundred grams of fresh nettle leaves (a generous ½-cup blanched) contains 100% of our daily vitamin-A requirements as well as 46% of our daily calcium, 20% of our daily fiber and 10% of our daily iron.
Water from soaking, steeping or blanching nettle leaves (used both internally and externally) is a traditional skin and hair treatment, purportedly soothing dry skin or strengthening and adding shine to your locks.
As wild foods go, nettles are an extraordinary package: an accessible flavor profile, an impressive catalog of medicinal applications, and a nutritional range and concentration not found in any other leafy vegetable. Their unwelcoming exterior gives way to a wealth of resources, not the least of which is their culinary prowess. A recent foraging expedition yielded a batch of leek and nettle sauce at my house (roasted leeks processed with blanched nettle leaves, some of their blanching water, oil, salt and pepper to make a smooth, bright green puree) that lent stunning visual contrast and botanic zest to a grilled filet of halibut.
As their popularity grows, nettles have become increasingly available to those less interested in the wilderness side of wild foods, popping up more and more at area restaurants, farmers markets and specialty groceries. Their window of availability is brief, however, and the time is now for fresh nettle leaves, whose harvests will wind down by mid-May in our area.
If food is medicine, nettles offer more than their weight in nutritional gold, flavors more beautiful than appearance suggests and a motto that matches the fickleness of spring: take caution, be bold, enjoy with abandon.
Sarah West is a gardener, eater and admirer of the agricultural arts. She gladly spends her Sundays as assistant manager of the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market, basking in the richness of its producers’ bounty and its community’s energy. Find archives and more at http://thefatofthelandblog.wordpress.com.
Grain Dinner Series at Tabor Bread
Friday, April 25 Door opens at 6:30 dinner begins at 7:00pm
Tabor Bread, 5051 SE Hawthorne Blvd Portland OR 97215
The final dinner in the Grain Dinner Series is centered on red fife wheat. ?? a 4-course menu in the beautiful Tabor Bread space, and meet the Farmer who grows & supplies Tabor Bread with their buckwheat. Visit the event page (link) for more information. For tickets: https://squareup.com/market/tabor-bread/red-fife-wheat-whole-grain-supper-april Or phone Tabor Bread: 971.279.5530
Rieke Art Fair
Sunday May 4 10am-4pm
Rieke Elementary 1405 SW Vermont St. Portland OR 97219
Dozens of professional artists offering artwork ranging from jewelry and paintings to ceramics and artistic fashions. You’ll also have an opportunity to support Rieke students who will be selling their creative handiwork. Other activities include art classes and musical performances. Visit http://www.riekeartfair.com for more information.
Growing Cities Screening
Benefit for Friends of Portland Community Gardens
Wednesday May 7 2014 7pm
Clinton St Theatre, 2522 SE Clinton St. Portland OR 97202
Growing Cities is a documentary film about urban farming across the U.S. It follows two young men on their trip across the country as they discover how urbanites are revitalizing the social, economic, and ecological fabric of their cities by growing food. Find out more about the documentary here (link). Screening proceeds benefit Friends of Portland Community Gardens.
Spring Arts & Crafts Sale
Multnomah Arts Center
Friday May 9 (9am-9pm)
Saturday May 10 (9 am-4 pm)
7688 SW Capitol Highway Portland OR 97219
503.823.2787 • www.MultnomahArtsCenter.org
Multnomah Arts Center holds its annual spring sale of instructor and student work on the first weekend in May. Hand-crafted items for sale include ceramics, weaving and jewelry created by more than 30 instructors and students at the Center. Functional and decorative art is offered at great prices, and just in time for Mother’s Day! Proceeds support local arts education and artists.