Nettle Crepes Two Ways and A Reverence For Plants
Wasting food is easy when you have plenty, when it comes in little boxes and plastic packages to be used or tossed, salad greens going brown in their plastic bags in the crisper drawer. But your perspective shifts once you experience a time of scarcity, when you can’t afford to waste precious calories. Getting to know the plants and animals you are consuming helps too.
Once you watch a plant grow, see the way it absorbs sunlight and asks for water by wilting or drooping, recognize the ecosystem it is part of and see the other animals that rely on its gifts, your respect for it grows and grows. As a forager, I feel much more connected to the foods I gather than the foods I buy at the grocery store; it’s far easier to toss the leftover rice from a box of take-out than it is to throw out the plants that worked so hard for their life and that I worked so hard to gather. Even though I know that the rice plants and harvesters worked hard to provide me with that box of take-out, it just doesn’t give me the same personal connection as something I have foraged myself.
That’s part of ethical foraging. Take only what you need, and don’t waste anything. Before you go out foraging, make sure you’ve left adequate space in your day to process your finds; often, the longest work comes after you’ve returned home, gathered on the back porch or in the kitchen plucking flowers from stems or de-seeding fruit. Take the time to honor what fills your basket and will fill your bellies. Plan ahead for canning, pickling, drying, or freezing. Know that you will likely come home with something you did not set out to harvest and leave space to preserve those lucky finds along with whatever you set out to gather. Many novice foragers don’t realize the time and energy needed to process what they gather and come home with an overwhelming abundance - plants that could have given sustenance to other animals, plants that could have contributed to their own reproductive well-being, plants that could have enriched the soil they grew from. Do not let your eyes be to big for your stomach. Know your limits, know your needs, and take only what you can use or share.
We are all learning, and all of us waste. Sometimes our leftovers get pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten until they are no longer good, sometimes we return home from the fields only to be overwhelmed with exhaustion and put off our harvest for too long and it spoils. It’s okay to be human. Just keep these ethos in mind when you are handling sources of sustenance, whether that’s store-bought steak or foraged nettles. To not waste is to show respect for what you’ve got, no matter how bountiful the patch may be.
I love Robin Wall Kimmerer’s words about gratitude for the origin of things in her book Braiding Sweetgrass:
“I open the cupboard, a likely place for gifts. I think, ‘I greet you, jar of jam. You glass who once was sand upon the beach, washed back and forth and bathed in foam and seagull cries, but who are formed into a glass until you once again return to the sea. And you, berries, plump in your June-ness, now in my February pantry. And you, sugar, so far from your Caribbean home -- thanks for making the trip.”
Below are recipes that use up bits. The base recipe is a lovely green spinach or nettle crepe (bonus: it’s naturally gluten-free.) These crepes are tender and nutritious, and taste equally good when stuffed with savory wild mushrooms or yogurt and jam. You can use the same crepes for a hearty dinner or a light dessert or breakfast. No need to waste.
When I harvest nettle, I blanch and puree it and then freeze it in cup-sized portions so it’s easy to pull out the right amount for a recipe like this!
1 c. spinach or nettle puree
3 Tbs. tapioca starch
pinch of salt
Mix the spinach, tapioca starch, eggs, and salt in a small bowl. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and cook the batter like you would a crepe, using 1/3c. batter for each.
Freshly-foraged wild mushrooms like chanterelles or morels get a little boost from lemon juice, wine, and onion. I love the various textures of this mix when asparagus (wild or cultivated) is added as well! If you have leftovers, try spreading the mix on a hearty bread for another meal.
2 c. wild mushrooms
1/4 c. butter
1 bundle amount of asparagus
1/4 c. dry white wine
1/3 c. grated parmesan
2 Tbs. lemon juice
Chop the onion into small pieces. Gently brush any dirt off the wild mushrooms (it’s best to avoid washing them with water, but you can if they’re really dirty) and slice them into bite-sized pieces. Slicethe asparagus into 1” long segments.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter is hot, add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is transluscent. Add the mushrooms and asparagus and cook until both are softened to your preference. Add the white wine and stir quickly. Remove from heat and stir in the parmesan and lemon juice.
Stuff each spinach crepe with about ½ c. of the mixture, roll, and top with Hollandaise sauce.
This classic sauce elevates crepes to a new level of deliciousness. Don’t be intimidated - Hollandaise is actually quite easy and quick to prepare as long as you follow the directions exactly!
2 egg yolks
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)
2/3 c. butter
Melt the butter slowly in a small pot, being careful not to boil.
In a food processor or blender, blend the lemon juice, salt, and egg yolks at medium speed until it lightens in color, about 30 seconds.
Lower the blender’s settings to low and slowly drizzle in melted butter while the blender is running. Continue to blend for another few seconds after the butter is incorporated.
Turn off the blender and taste the sauce, then add more salt and lemon juice to taste. Add the cayenne now as well. If you want a thinner consistency, add a bit of warm water and pulse to mix.
Sweet Yogurt Filling:
This is a great way to use up the bottom of the jam jar. Try substituting your favorite jam for the apricot listed. I particularly love huckleberry.
1 c. Greek yogurt
½ c. apricot jam
Swirl the apricot jam into the yogurt. Place a heaping spoonful of the mixtue into the middle of each crepe and roll up. Top with Primrose Lemon Curd.
Microwave Primrose Lemon Curd:
Lemon curd is another recipe that often seems intimidating, but is actually fairly easy. You just have to understand that the eggs must be heated gently and gradually to avoid cooking them. Primrose flowers lend a lovely floral note to this tasty sauce. Leftovers can be drizzled over cakes or fruit, added to tarts, swirled into ice cream, or eaten by the spoonful at midnight.
3 primrose flowers
1/2 c. lemon juice
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. melted butter
1 large egg
Pulse the primrose flowers with the sugar in a small spice grinder until finely ground. Add the primrose sugar and the rest of the ingredients to a large microwave-safe bowl (To avoid boiling over, you should make sure the bowl is only filled 1/4 the way full.)
Microwave the ingredients for 1 minute, then remove and whisk well. Repeat several times, until the curd starts to thicken and coats the back of a spoon. This may take 4-8 minutes total.
Stir the curd until it’s smooth, then cover it with a film of plastic wrap and chill before serving.
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