Last year’s nettles sit in a basket after being picked. When you harvest nettles, wear gloves and then wash and destem them. Once nettles are cooked, they lose their sting. (Betsy Wharton/for Peninsula Daily News)

Last year’s nettles sit in a basket after being picked. When you harvest nettles, wear gloves and then wash and destem them. Once nettles are cooked, they lose their sting. (Betsy Wharton/for Peninsula Daily News)

PENINSULA KITCHEN: It’s thyme to start harvesting fresh plants

THE SKIES HAVE been mostly gloomy and news reports (real or imagined) leave me feeling either scared or angry.

But if you look close there are signs of spring all around.

I’ve seen a lot of flower bulbs and spring onions poking their intrepid tips above ground.

I haven’t seen nettles yet in my favorite neighborhood spots, but it will only take a few warm days in February for their gorgeous green and purple leaves to pop up.

In years past I have posted other recipes that feature our wild foraged greens and I think it is worth repeating this like a springtime mantra … go outside, notice what is growing and take advantage of these plants.

They are high in minerals and flavinoids and add extraordinary flavor to ordinary dishes.

We are so fortunate to have nature close at hand.

Whether you walk along the coast, in the ravines or across an empty lot, be on the lookout for these gifts from the ground.

Of course I am not suggesting that you pluck any plant you see and pop it in your mouth.

Start by learning a couple of species in your back yard.

Dandelions and chickweed have taken over my garden … why pull weeds when you can simply enjoy them for dinner?

This is a delicious recipe developed by Paula Wolfert, a cookbook author who in the 1970s was one of the first American cooks to bring recipes from Morocco and other Mediterranean countries to America.

Wild greens jam adapted from “Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life,” by Emily Keiser Thelin

12 ounces cultivated greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, mustard or kale (or a mixture) stemmed

4 ounces seasonal wild greens such as nettle, chickweed, dandelion or purslane, also stemmed

1 cup fresh parsley leaf

3 cloves unpeeled garlic

½ cup cilantro leaves

¼ teaspoon sea salt

4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon paprika, sweet and smoked if you have it

¼ teaspoon *toasted ground cumin

juice of ½ lemon

½ preserved lemon peel, slivered optional

12 black olives in oil

*To toast the cumin, simply heat a non-oiled pan, place the cumin on the hot pan and, without allowing it to burn, cook for a minute or two until it begins to turn brown.

Using a steamer basket, bring a pot of water to a boil.

Steam the greens together including the cultivated and wild, as well as the parsley, cilantro and garlic.

Depending on the type of greens, steam for 10-15 minutes until very tender.

Remove the basket and allow veggies to cool.

Retrieve the garlic, peel the cloves and set aside.

Squeeze the greens dry in a kitchen towel and then chop finely.

In a heavy pan (cast iron if you have it) heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat.

Add the garlic, cumin, paprika and salt, and cook until fragrant.

Add the greens and continue cooking and mashing with a wooden spoon until all of the liquid has evaporated and you are left with a smooth paste.

Transfer to a bowl and add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the lemon juice and stir until you get a creamy consistency.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight if possible.

The flavors improve over time and can be held in the fridge for up to four days.

Just before serving, adjust the spices adding more cumin, lemon or salt if needed.

Garnish with the olives and serve with warm pita or a crusty flatbread.

________

Betsy Wharton is the proprietor of the Clallam Canning Co., a local purveyor of artisan pickles and other farm to jar goods. You can find her and her products at the Sprouting Hope Greenhouse at 826 E. First St. in Port Angeles. Or contact her at [email protected]

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