How Not to Pick Nettles!

It was gorgeous and sunny last week! On Wednesday I spent the morning sunning myself and going for the first swim of the year (refreshing but chilly!) Then in the afternoon a friend and I went hunting wild greens. First, we targeted twisted stalk (Streptopus species), fiddlehead ferns, and devils club (Oplopanax horridus) buds. Then we went to get a few dandelion greens (Teraxacum species) and some stinging nettle (Urtica species). I dutifully made sure we had gloves along but somehow neglected to notice that I was wearing shorts. Wow. A day later and my legs are still tingling!! I’m hoping for some long-lasting effects of the nettle stings on my wimpy arthritic knee, but I sure won’t make that mistake again, even if it does help my knee. The pickles I made from the greens were no mistake, however. I used the twisted stalk, fiddleheads, and devils club buds and they are getting scarfed down fast. Really a tasty variation to my usual blanched wild greens with butter or balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I highly recommend you give this a try with whatever slightly toothsome wild green you have at hand.
There are a few things besides nettle stings to be careful of in gathering these plant species. First,  harvest only the growing tip of a mature nettle plant, older leaves are inedible, second care should be taken not to confuse young twisted stalk with the very poisonous false hellebore (Veratrum species), and third, only completely furled fiddleheads of species besides the bracken fern (which have been associated with stomach cancer) should be gathered. Refer early and often to a good plant identification book! Finally, take care to avoid overharvesting.

Pickled Wild Greens
Medium saucepan
Measuring cups and spoons
2 pint canning jars and lids
Hot water bath
Jar grabber

Twisted stalk
Devils club buds
1 c apple cider vinegar
1 c water
1 T kosher salt
1 T sugar
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig thyme
½ t black peppercorns
¼ t cardamom
¼ t mustard seed
3 allspice seeds
2 cloves

Put vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in saucepan and bring to boil.
Sterilize pint jars in hot water bath.
Peel and crush garlic cloves, put into pint jars along with spices and thyme sprig.
Steam fiddleheads for 3-5 minutes.
Stuff pint jars with wild greens, pack full it will shrink.
Pour vinegar solution over greens and spices.
Screw lids onto jars, turn upside down to seal and cool.
Once cooled, check to see if jars have sealed. If so they can be stored without refrigeration, if not, refrigerate and eat at your leisure!