Here in Portland we’re fortunate to have a year-round farmer’s market, and I’m always on the lookout for interesting, tasty, off-the-beaten-path things to make for Pesach. I love serving fresh asparagus at my seder, but it’s not in season yet, so I was looking for an alternative. Our local mushroom purveyor, Springwater Farm, offers a great variety of mushrooms, but they also sell other wild/foragable foods, including fiddlehead ferns and bags of stinging nettles. Here’s a link to some fiddlehead fern recipes.
The fiddleheads can be served in lieu of asparagus; just blanch them in boiling water and saute in garlic with a little salt.
Despite their sting, nettles are a great thing to eat (once you cook them, the sting goes away). Nettles have been a staple of traditional medicines for centuries, but they’re also amazingly (for a vegetable) high in protein, and a delicious way to get some greens in your diet during the winter. Here’s a great recipe for nettle mushroom soup (it might be good with matzah balls, you never know), posted with permission from its creator, chef Kathryn Yeomans:
Nettle Mushroom Soup
1/2 lb young nettles
2 oz. butter, or olive oil
1 lb. potatoes
a pinch of chile flake
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 lb mixed wild and cultivated mushrooms
2 qt good quality meat, chicken or vegetable stock
sea salt & black pepper to taste
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Carefully add the nettles and cook until the stingers have softened, about a minute or two. Drain the nettles, refresh them under cold water until cool enough to handle. Squeeze them slightly to remove some of the water and chop them. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over a medium flame. Add the sliced potato and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes have started to take on some color (10-15 minutes). Add the chile flake and sliced garlic. Cook for 1 more minute, break up potatoes slightly with a potato masher or wooden spoon, and then add the stock. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, saute the mushrooms in additional oil. Add them to the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer the soup for 20 minutes, then add the nettles. Warm through and serve.