The second time I met Hannah K. of Cooking Manager, we were walking home from a class last winter and she started pointing out all these edible weeds along the side of the road. I wasn't sure what to think. Was she a new-age hippie? Did everyone in Israel eat weeds? Miriam Kresh of Israeli Kitchen had just taught Hannah about edible weeds and her eyes were peeled for the species she learned to pick. Now I've known Hannah a little over a year and I've come to learn that she is quite balanced, most Israeli's buy their produce in a store, and weeds taste great!
For the last few weeks I've been noticing many edible-looking weeds as I walked around town, and I kept meaning to look at Hannah's old post on Green Prophet "Five Edible Wild Plants You Can Pick Yourself". The last time she came by, I mentioned it to her, and she showed me lots of edible mallows, nettle, chick weed, and one "chamtzitz" flower, right around our building!
That afternoon my kids and I dawned gloves and went out back to pick stinging nettles. I simmered them in chicken stock. They were delicious! And this soup was practically free, besides the water and tiny bit of gas. The stock was made from veggie trimming and chicken bones that would have ended up in the trash, and we barely made a dent in the nettles growing around our neighborhood. (For all the details on making chicken or vegetable stock, come back to nonrecipe.com this Tuesday.)
If you want to pick nettles, watch out! Nettles have very prickly stems which soften when they are cooked or steamed. Look for spade shaped leaves with a serrated edge. Pick weeds that haven't flowered yet. Besides making soup, you can cook them with rice or in a stir fry with garlic. Most of the soup recipes I found involved potatoes and cream. I recommend simply simmering them in good broth for about 15 minutes.
Make sure to check them for bugs before you wash them. Once they get wet they will clump together. Don't take of your gloves until these mean little weeds are safely in your pot.
The flavor and texture reminded me of miso soup. I think sliced nettles would be excellent in chicken broth with a little miso, and cubes of silken tofu.
I'm so excited to try more edible weeds! Next, I'm thinking about layering large, round mallow leaves with cooked barley, covering it with tomato sauce, and baking briefly. Maybe topped with sautéed bread crumbs and herbs... mm-mm...
For more about edible weeds, including a recipe for stuffed mallows and seasonal weed picking, check out these posts on Israeli Kitchen.