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Nettles and Know How


 


My little sister is pregnant right now. Naturally as her older sister, I am bit worried. Having a child is hard (as they say). Having a child right now is a few levels up, I imagine.

Early on in this quarantine experience, I projected all my fears about COVID and this economic train wreck onto her, wanting to problem solve with her (but really for her). 

One day we were chatting though, and I was doing my best to hold back my “ideas” and just make space for her to vent and share what it’s like to be growing a child in the middle of a pandemic. I’m not sure who brought it up but suddenly we started chatting about the food plants just starting to pop up. She is in Pennsylvania, so back in early April the nettles were already popping and dandelion greens looking bright.

She shared how safe she felt knowing she could feed her family, after getting laid off and witnessing the supply chain breakdowns at grocery stores, with these wild foods. It was that in moment, I relaxed and let go of my need to try and manage her life. She has know how, ingenuity, and resourcefulness. Of course! She knows the plants and they have her back.

She’s been a little stir crazy being in her third trimester with more limitations than she’s used to, and living a life more domestic than she’d ever imagined. Yet, she’s sent me a tome of poetry for editing she’s hoping to publish and has been overcome with culinary industry---sending me photos of the dandelion wine and nettle palak paneer she is busy crafting! I’m so proud of her, and though she’s far, I feel so comforted by the elders she has nurturing her with green goodness---mama nettles and daddy dandelion. I’m so grateful we share this love.

Here is a poem she wrote, first published in one of our old Acorn Kitchen comic books from 2013.  When I first read it, I was moved but now, a bit weepy. The weepiness that comes from being awash with gratitude and the heartbreaking splendor of this life. 
 
I have built my bones
From the milk of weeds
Grown my fuzzed fur from
The prick of nettle leaves
Cast my heart’s strength
From the sweet smell of rose love
And picked relief from
The weeping bracts above
Each limb of mine stretches
To spring from wild sprout
Feel nourished and whole
In flood and drought
 
-Chelsea Leusner
 
 
Nettles are just coming up here and we’re starting to eat ‘em! This week you’ll find them in the wild greens egg cups.  As an extra ode to my family, this week I’m also cooking up some German potato salad decorated with ribbons of dandelion greens.  My mother taught me how to make this one and it’s in my top five comfort foods.