DARE TO BE WILD
Stinging Nettles, Miner’s Lettuce and Watercress are Now in Season
Stinging Nettles, the plants that hikers in the Pacific Northwest try not to walk into, are not only edible, but extremely healthy and delicious. Just coming into season, along with miner’s lettuce and watercress, nettles have many applications that will invigorate your plate.
North American Import and Export, a national high-end restaurant distributor, buys wild produce direct from foragers in northern California through Washington. With a limited growing season, the pickers follow the species and season northward as it makes its way up the Cascade Mountains and pacific coast—spreading the season out for as long as possible for delivery to restaurant chefs.
“We introduced these products to the national market last year and were blown away by the demand. In terms of immediate sales, it was the best selling new product we’ve ever had. From the first week until the end of its season we’ll have more species and availability this year,” said Justin Marx, Vice President of North American Import and Export. “These greens are not only novel and delicious, adding beautiful colors, shapes and the ability to completely change a meal’s flavor profile, but they’re extremely healthy too.”
A fresh combination of spinach and mint with earthy undertones characterizes the flavor of stinging nettles. A distinctive ingredient in pasta, seafood dishes, pesto or on pizza, stinging nettles are delicious steamed or sautéed. Other common applications include making soup or tea. Stinging nettles should be handled with gloves until they are blanched, chopped or ground to dissolve the folic acid stinging agent. One of the healthiest greens available, stinging nettles have been used for ages as an herbal medicine. Good for the kidneys, bladder and blood as well as arthritis, they’re also known for their tonic abilities—stimulating the appetite and mind.
Miner’s lettuce, named for the early gold miners who ate it to ward off scurvy, is excellent for salad or as base for mixed greens. A juicy, tender and sweet lettuce, it can be steamed or boiled like spinach, but really shines when eaten raw. Miner’s lettuce is a very pretty and succulent green; it has the appearance of a mini-lily pad with tiny white flowers poking through the center. Packed full of vitamin C, it’s a simple and stunning way to garnish appetizers, sandwiches or soup.
The perfect green to add a little zip to a salad or panini, watercress has a peppery, tangy flavor with a nutty fragrance. It’s an excellent ingredient for enhancing meat, fish, shellfish and soup or can be used to bring an innovative, seasonal dimension to pesto or even mashed potatoes. The flavors of watercress mesh well with strong flavors such as garlic, onion and ginger. Alternatively it will liven up more mellow dishes including pasta and couscous, or can be used to infuse oil. Harvested in the Pacific Northwest, watercress is packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
“Where as micro-greens were a mini-trend in high end food service, I think wild produce will be the next big thing.” said Marx. “So much can be done with the produce from using it as an edible garnish to accompany fish to distinctly adding new a new flavor profile and variety to a typical meal.”
“Since these are wild plants, it’s impossible to predict the season for a particular item. But at some point soon; fiddlehead ferns, ramps, wood sorrel, wood violets and morel mushrooms will be available. Sea beans (samphire) will be coming this summer.”
Sustainable harvesting methods are maintained ensuring the plants will remain healthy and continue to produce. The wild produce is hand-picked by foragers in areas where the ground has not been impoverished, meaning the soil is natural—untouched by fertilizers or chemicals.
To have miner’s lettuce, stinging nettles or watercress sent overnight to you, fresh from the coastal mountain ranges, visit www.nafood.com or call (888) 276-5955. Individual consumers can purchase wild produce from Marx Foods.
For over a decade, North American Import & Export (www.nafood.com), a high-end restaurant distributor, has provided products to fine restaurants throughout the United States. They carry a large inventory of specialty items and are always happy to accommodate special requests. To contact a sales representative, please call (888) 276-5955.