Sparkle Kitchen
Nature School Project: Nettle and Cauliflower Casserole

Nature School Project: Nettle and Cauliflower Casserole

This recipe accompanies the third story of the Martin & Sylvia: Nature School Audio Book - “Part Three: Out in the Elements.”


Wild edibles are nature’s gift of free food. The original super foods packed with vitamins and minerals and that little bit of extra wild energy. You might even have some wild edibles right in your backyard or neighborhood. You know those pretty yellow dandelions that everyone keeps mowing or pulling out of their yard? Edible. Or those leafy green plants with little hairs on them that sting? Edible. I’m here today to talk about that stinging plant, nettles, and give you a delicious casserole recipe to eat them with.

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Foraging for wild edibles is a great way to connect your kids with nature. Showing them how to find something they can eat outside of their home provides them with sense of self confidence. Since my two girls were little, I’ve been taking them out into our neighborhood and up into the mountains for days of looking for things to eat. We often think of it as treasure hunt ending with free lunch.

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Here are some easy tips for hunting for wild edibles:

  • get a great book with pictures of the edibles in your area and familiarize your self with easy to identify ones such as dandelions, nettles, purslane, plantain…

  • make sure you are away from traffic areas if you are in the city or suburbs don’t pick anything that looks distressed or diseased

  • if it’s on private land ask first if you can pick

  • bring along a bag, gloves and garden shears or scissors for cutting

  • take only what you need, leave the rest for the wild animals. (Especially important for berries and flowers as they are a major source of food for bees, bears and many vegetarian and omnivorous creatures.)

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How do you pick the nettles for this recipe if they sting you? You’ll need a pair of leather or rubber work gloves for you and your little helper and a bag. You can also use a pair of scissors to easily spin the nettle tops off the plant, but they should be soft enough that it wouldn’t be a problem. Using your thumb and index fingers simply pinch off the top two layers of leaves. You’ll have the first four-six leaves on the plant. Put these in your bag and continue picking until you’ve filled the bag. You’ll need a grocery bag full as they wilt down a lot when cooked like spinach.

When you are ready to use them place in a colander and rinse them briefly to remove any dirt or bugs. Then bring a medium pot of water to boil and blanch the leaves for two to three minutes. This will wilt the leaves and stinging hairs and essentially disable the formic acid that would otherwise sting you. When wilted, drain the leaves and reserve the nettle water; this is basically nettle tea, which has a myriad of heath benefits. You can drink it or give it to your chickens or throw it on the compost. Just don’t pour it down the drain as it’s rich in vitamin and minerals. Set the drained nettle leaves aside to cool. Once cooled, chop them into small pieces. Now you are ready to make the recipe!

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I first created this recipe while we were living in France where there are a lot more wild edibles than in the deserts of Arizona, though the desert has it’s yummy treats too. My then two and four year old helped me to gather the nettles and willingly ate this dish. It’s yummy creamy and comforting.

Nettle and Cauliflower Casserole

Recipe for 4 adults

Ingredients:

1 grocery bag full of nettles (like spinach, they shrink A LOT when cooked)

1 cup of chopped cauliflower

1 cup of brown rice

2 cups of vegetable stock

8 oz of creme fraiche or sour cream

grated Parmigiano Reggiano (or Pecorino Romano) for additional yummy-ness

salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

Start by prepping your nettles, (basically boil, drain, chop). Boil the chopped cauliflower until tender and then drain and set aside with the drained chopped nettles.

Using a good vegetable stock, cook one cup of rice in a big pot until tender and all the stock is absorbed and the rice is cooked through. Turn off the heat and fluff the rice with a fork. Add the cauliflower and nettles to the rice, as well as the creme fraiche. Mix until combined, then add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle on grated parmiggiano and serve warm.

It reheats well the next day and is yummy served cold too.


Download the recipe HERE



Have you ever foraged for wild edibles? What are your favorites?

Want to know more about wild edibles? Here are some resources:

Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide

Rachel’s Series on Wild Plants

Food Foraging: Find and Enjoy Wild Edible Plants


If you liked this recipe, here are others you might enjoy:


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About the Author

KC Pagano

Sparkle Stories Media Maven

KC is a full-time radical homemaker and mama to two spunky little girls. She writes about all kinds of radical goodness, from gardening and cooking with whole foods to crafting, sewing, homeschooling, and mama musings. Read more on her blog The Nettlesome Life.

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