The air has had the feeling of shifted seasons and new growth in it this past week, which often means that the nettles are up. On Friday afternoon, after adding the remainder of last year's dried nettles to a batch of my handcrafted chocolate, I headed for one of my favorite local parks with my partner so that he could go for a run while I went on a nettle hunt. I took my time moseying over to my nettle spot in a patch of woods at the edge of the park, just enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, the green quality of the light as it reflected on all the new bits of growth in the woods, and the songs of birds returning from their Winter journeys down south. When I got to the right spot, and poked the toe of my boot around in the leaf layer covering the forest floor, I saw that sure enough, the nettles were on. I took my basket and began gingerly snapping off the new green tops to fill my basket with chlorophyll-packed goodness. It felt like my birthday, an egg hunt and Christmas all at once.
As is often the case, I met a woman out walking her dog who was very intrigued by my endeavors and wanted to know what I was gathering. When I told her it was nettles, she said that she had heard about how good they were, but was daunted by the sting. I explained all about careful harvesting and cooking techniques, and waxed poetic for awhile about how delicious and healthy nettles are. She departed with the determined look in her eye of one who is plotting the incorporation of wild foods in their life. I always enjoy giving other folks the information and inspiration to go out and do something by hand or from scratch. It's easy to forget just how much good food is growing all around us, and all we need to do is take a moment to stop and gather it for ourselves.
About the time I had my basket filled with green treasures, my partner came back from his run and we walked through the filbert orchards, past the old bee tree, and back to the car each talking about how happy we were with the results of our respective afternoon endeavors at Dorris K. Ranch. On the drive home, my mind was filled with all the wonderful plans I have for my nettles. Nettle tea, miso nettle broth, nettles and eggs, nettle beer and wild nettle chocolates are just a few, and really only the beginning.
So, I am officially declaring it nettle season. Whether you are a seasoned wildcrafter, or a green-around-the-edges novice, it's time to get out your basket and gloves, grab a plant ID guide if you need it, and let the fun begin!