“Use what you've got" is a phrase that is a building block for sustainable living. In this post we share two recent examples of seasonal plants–one not a traditional part of the Western diet– being used in creative ways.
Chive blossoms are only around for a short time. Their rosy color and pungent flavor make a striking base for salad dressings when added to vinegar. Here are instructions from Chris on how to prepare:
Chive head infused vinegar
When the chives flower, collect and wash them, and put them in a mason jar.
Cover the flower heads with distilled white vinegar.
Cap the jar.
Let rest (in sunlight if possible) for 4 days.
Add more distilled white vinegar (so that the flower heads float)
Recover and let stand for three more days.
Pour into a new jar straining out the flowers.
“Your Chive Vinegar will be bright pink and have a great aroma,” said Chris. “It is good for salads and dressings all summer long. Enjoy!”
Taking the Sting Out of Stinging Nettles
Chef Chris recently blanched nettle (wild) harvested by Gardener Dave to use as filling for some amazing calzones. Note Chris wore gloves while preparing the nettles for blanching, but they lose their sting in the hot water.
The following is Chris's recipe:
Stinging Chicken Calzones
2-2 ¼ cups of all purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
1 ½ tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cups warm water
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1 cup flour
4 cups milk
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb stinging nettles (use the top, freshest leaves)
1 red pepper
1 sweet onion
2 cups diced chicken (cooked)
2 cups mozzarella cheese (shedded)
Make dough by adding all ingredients to a mixing bowl (wet ingredients first then dry). Mix with a dough hook for five minutes. Pull dough out and add a little more flour if it is too sticky. Knead by hand for about 2 minutes and place in a bowl to proof (warm spot covered). Proof for 1 hour or until dough doubles in size.
Blanch the nettles (be careful and wear gloves until they hit the hot water). Drain them and squeeze excess water out, then let them cool. (They are not stingy any more after the boiling water).
For the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour and stir. This will form a paste that you want to stir often. The rue should cook a little and smell almost like fresh baked cookies then add the milk and garlic and whisk until it thickens. Add salt and pepper as it gets thick and taste until you are happy with the sauce. It should take about 8 minutes.
For the filling, dice the pepper and onion, then mix. Chop the cooled nettles and add to the mix with the shredded cheese and chicken.
To assemble, divide the dough into 8 equal parts. Use a rolling pin and make 8 small circles. Use extra flour to roll them out so they do not stick. Add sauce to the center of the dough, and put ⅛ of the filling in the center. Fold the calzones, making a stuffed half circle and seal the edges with a fork by pressing down on the edges.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes (if you want a golden brown crust you can add egg wash to the tops of calzones).
More About Nettles
About this time last year we shared Gardener Dave’s use of Nettle Tea (https://www.happydancingturtle.org/post/the-garden-files-nettle-tea-skinks-strawberries-and-asparagus-harvest)--but it turns out the nettles are good food for people as well as plants. In fact, nettles are very high in calcium as well as being a significant source for vitamin B6, iron, and magnesium. It is used extensively in other countries as not only an herb or vegetable, but as a dried powder. The National Institutes of Health in the United States has even studied the powder, comparing it to wheat and barley flour.
As garden season ramps up, it’s easy to fall into eating the same fresh produce we’ve always savored. It never hurts, though, to diversify our diets. Changing things up can help us improve our nutritional intake and make use of existing food sources.