It's spring and seems like the warmth is finally here to stay in Appalachia. Yesterday, in the May rains that have been common lately, during my Wild Foraging and Herbal Medicine Making Apprentice Day, one of my students exclaimed how vibrantly green all the plants were. It's true, you can see the glow of aliveness in everything. Being a Florida born plant person, I admit winters are tough for me. I invite all of us to take some time to sit in the sun and bask in the beauty of everything awakening after the long, cold season.
The early spring greens are transitioning from their tenderness to a harder fibrousness. At this point, they're not as tasty as raw salad greens. So what do we do with them? Cook 'em up! I found out from my awesome homesteading friend, Meredith (also the incredibly knowledgeable and generous author of the new super helpful website lymecompass.net all about her family's journey with Lyme Disease, as a way to help others on their journeys with Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses) who grows lots of nettles, about nettle pancakes. How did I never know about these before?! Apparently they are super popular in Nordic countries, and called nokkosletut.
Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, is the species most commonly thought to be medicinal. However, I like the taste of our wild wood nettle, Laportea canadensis, better. They are both in the nettle family, Urticaceae, with stinging hairs. Of course, to protect yourself from the stings, wear leather gloves, though the sting is medicinal, too, for arthritic conditions, gout, etc. I'll add any of a wide variety of wild greens to these, like dandelion, day lily, violet, and chickweed. Just remember to make any bitter greens, like dandelion, a small amount of the total greens, or you'll end up with bitter pancakes. You might like that, though. Remember how great for us bitters are?!
These pancakes are pretty simple to make. Make them thinner, like crepes, for best results. As you can tell from the pictures, I'm not too concerned with making perfectly shaped pancakes. You could try to make some fun shapes, too, if you're feeling creative. I made these gluten and dairy free, with gluten free flour and coconut milk, but substitute your favorites. You could also make this vegan by using flax seeds or other egg substitute. Cultivated onions or garlic can also be substituted for the wild onions.
These are so simple to make, I hope you try them in many different reincarnations with different greens throughout the various seasons. Let me know, in the comments, your favorite additions and how they turn out. One awesome topping I came up with is fire cider aioli! Just mix some fire cider and mayonnaise until it gets to your desired consistency. I added some ramp salt for extra yumminess!
Savory Wild Greens Pancakes Recipe
2 cups semi-loosely packed stinging or woods nettle leaves
2 plants-worth of medium sized dandelion greens (or about 20 leaves)
2 cups milk of choice
2 cups gluten free flour
2 eggs or substitute
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon wild onions, chopped coarsely
1 tablespoon dried, crumbled bee balm, bergamot, or oregano leaves, or 2 tablespoons fresh
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil of choice, plus extra for skillet
Combine all ingredients in Vita Mix or other food processor. Run until just well mixed. Add more oil to skillet over medium heat. Ladle batter into hot pan so you have small (two inches wide), thin pancakes. Cook two minutes or until edges start to dry and they hold together to flip. Flip and cook another two minutes or until done in the middle and light brown.
Ideas for toppings:
Goat and other cheeses
Happy foraging & eating!
Founder of the WANDER (Wild Artemisia Nature Discovery, Empowerment, and Reconnection) School, Botanist, Herbalist, & Professional Forager, Abby Artemisia, lives in rural Appalachian North Carolina. She learned about plants playing in the Midwestern woods of Ohio, working on organic farms, an herbal apprenticeship, a bachelor's degree in Botany from Miami University, and running her own tea business. She teaches about plant identification, native plants, and working with plants for food and medicine throughout the country. Her mission is offering nature and herbal education to create healing through connection with the natural world and each other. She is the author of The Forager's Wild Edible and Herbal Plant Cards and The Herbal Handbook for Homesteaders. She is the host of the podcast Wander, Forage, and Wildcraft, founder of The WANDER School, and co-founder of The Sassafras School of Appalachian Plantcraft.