Asparagus Nettle Stir-fry
At every stage of Spring, more local foods are ready to harvest. In the past few days, the asparagus has popped out of the ground, the wild leeks (aka ramps) are ready to harvest, and the nettles are big enough to use. It's probably not a coincidence that these three Spring foods go well together in a meal!
Note: that is a stalk of young garlic in the photo above, not a wild leek.
Asparagus is easy enough to find at any farmer's market or grocery store, but where to find the nettles and ramps? A few possibilities:
- farmer's market
- local farmer or gardener or forager
- in the forest (for the ramps - if you know what to look for, how to harvest, and how to leave enough for future years)
- nettles can be found in a surprising number of places, such as farms, forests, parks, etc. Be sure to harvest them from a 'clean' area.
Stinging nettles are best harvested when young, about 6-12 inches high. They are very rich in minerals and vitamins, and are considered a tonic by many. They can be enjoyed as a tea, as an infusion, steamed like spinach, in pesto, etc. Any livestock I've raised has LOVED nettles, and will gobble up any amount of dried or cut & wilted nettles.
The only thing to watch out for - the prickly hairs on their stems and leaves! They release formic acid, which leaves a temporary stinging rash. It's uncomfortable for a while, but nothing to worry about. Just wear gloves when picking nettles! The sting disappears when the nettles are cooked, or when finely chopped (as for pesto).
2 - 3 cups fresh young nettle leaves (or spinach, or another tender leafy green)
1/2 - 3/4 lb asparagus
1 - 2 inch bundle of wild leeks (in unavailable, substitute green onion, chives, or young garlic)
2 Tbsp butter
1. Rinse the vegetables.
2. Wearing gloves, snip the leaves from the nettle stems. Discard the stems.
3. Discard the tough bottoms of the asparagus stalks and cut the asparagus into 1 - 2-inch pieces.
4. Trim the root ends of the wild leeks. Chop into 1 - 2-inch pieces.
5. Heat the butter over medium heat in a frying pan. When hot, add the asparagus. Let it cook for about a minute, or until half done (the time depends on the thickness of the stalks).
6. Add the nettle leaves, wild leeks, a few shakes of sea salt, and a Tablespoon or two of water.
7. Cover the pan with a lid, and cook for 1 - 2 minutes, or until everything is tender and fragrant.
Enjoy this spring treat as a side with any meat / seafood / eggs!