Tag Archives: native plants

The Incredible Edible Stinging Nettle!

122 By Mandy Randolph

Springtime on Orcas Island means nettle time! Some people only consider nettles to be those pesky weeds that cause an irritating sting when brushed up against. My students at Orcas Island Elementary School know otherwise… they know that nettles are nutritious, tasty, and free!

A fresh nettle patch growing on Orcas Island.

A fresh nettle patch growing on Orcas Island.

Nettles are low in calories, but pack in a whopping amount of iron, calcium, vitamin K, and fiber. It has long been believed that ingesting nettles can combat the symptoms of hay fever and seasonal allergies. Try drinking two cups of nettle tea a day just prior to and during your allergy season and see for yourself! You do need to be careful when gathering your nettles. Wear long sleeves and pants. Use gloves and clippers to harvest. You can take the sting away from your nettles by drying them in the sun or simply by rinsing and soaking the nettles in water. The most certain way to take away all sting is to boil briefly.

A box full of freshly harvested stinging nettles.

A box full of freshly harvested stinging nettles.

After harvesting your nettles and before eating them, you could take some time to investigate them with a magnifying glass!

20150313_113028

Farm to Classroom students investigating stinging nettles with magnifying glasses.

20150312_11292820150313_112906

You can enjoy nettles in many ways, in soup, tea, sauces, and stir fry. We decided to make a nettle pasta dish in Farm to Classroom last week. Here is how we made our nettle pasta.

Stinging nettle pasta!

Stinging nettle pasta!

Start by mincing garlic and sautéing it in some olive oil. 20150312_113039

20150312_102429

Bring a pot of water to boil and add nettles to boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Remove the nettles with a slotted spoon and chop them. Add your pasta to the same water you boiled the nettles in.

20150312_112942

Add the chopped nettles to your garlic and sauté. Add a few pinches of sea salt if you’d like.

20150312_11361520150312_113419

Add the cooked pasta and mix thoroughly until combined.

Fresh stinging nettle pasta.

Fresh stinging nettle pasta.

Enjoy warm or cold!

20150313_14051820150313_140525

Here is an easy way to store your extra nettles for use later. Boil, chop, squeeze out excess water and form into a ball. Freeze the nettle balls on a baking sheet and transfer to a Ziploc bag once frozen. Then you can toss a nettle ball into soup, smoothies, sauces, scrambled eggs and omelets, you name it!

A batch of "nettle balls" before they went into the freezer.

A batch of “nettle balls” before they went into the freezer.

Go ahead and try some stinging nettles. My students enjoyed them, and you may too!

Happy students enjoying stinging nettle pasta. Seconds please!

Happy students enjoying stinging nettle pasta. Seconds please!

Eat your nettles!

3 Comments

Filed under Gardening, Nature, Recipes

What’s Up, SeaDoc?

Posted by Sandi

We’re fortunate to have many conservation-oriented organizations in the San Juan Islands dedicated to understanding, preserving and restoring our ecosystems. One of the most important is the SeaDoc Society, based on Orcas Island.

The SeaDoc Society, Orcas IslandSeaDoc sponsors a very cool Marine Science Lecture Series on Orcas in the fall/winter. I’ve been to many of these and highly recommend them. Get there early as they’re usually packed! It starts with cookies and refreshments, followed by a slide presentation with a scientist, then Q&A. It’s a fun educational event for all ages. Click here for the schedule. The next one is December 11th and focuses on potential local impacts of Climate Change.

SeaDoc is now posting videos of these informative presentations on their website. The October lecture was fascinating and one well worth watching: Indirect Effects of Humans on Native Species and Ecosystems.

Black-Tailed Deer on Orcas Island

Foxglove and Daisies, both non-natives, thrive here because they’re not on the deer diet.

The biggest takeaway for me was that our deer population, which is 10 times larger than it was when we had apex predators on the island, is responsible for large declines in native plant variety and therefore songbirds — two of my loves. Professor Peter Arcese, the lecturer from University of British Columbia, says responsible stewardship is the only way to reduce the deer population so that the ecosystem can begin to recover.

Stewardship is a nice word for hunting, which I’ve been adamantly opposed to. However, this lecture really opened my eyes as to the impact of letting the deer population run wild. Our current hunting law, though, permits up to two deer to be “taken” per hunter per year. Venison anyone?

3 Comments

Filed under Community, Nature

My Favorite Native Groundcover

Posted by Sandi

This weekend is the annual Garden Tour sponsored by the Orcas Island Garden Club. The theme is Homestead Gardens, and the focus is on “the sustainable horticulture of fruits, vegetables, herbs and livestock.” This will be interesting, and I’ll probably come home hungry with flatlander envy. My consolation prize: my flourishing native plants that have been taking care of themselves for eons. While they don’t provide a meal, I find they do provide food for the soul.

Case in point: Some years ago I discovered this cute little vine creeping alongide salal. It had been there all along, I had just failed to take notice. I thought it might be a weed, but it persisted through the winter. I took a sample to a Master Gardener, and even she couldn’t identify it. Well come the next June, this glossy evergreen creeper erupted with tiny pairs of pink and white bell flowers, dangling at the top of delicate stalks. There was no mistaking it: this was Linnaea borealis, our native Twinflower. How lucky am I!

I started weeding out her competition, and she immediately showed her appreciation. Unlike salal which is quite prolific on our property, Twinflower has selected just a few areas to thrive: a smaller patch along a sunny cliff, and a larger established mat under fir trees which receives afternoon sun. In the shady patch, the blooms last nearly all summer and keep the bees busy.

Although Twinflower can be easily propagated by cuttings from runners, it’s very slow to establish and takes seedlings about thirteen years to bloom. So when taking your woodland walks this summer, be sure to look down and notice this diminutive but hardy little creeper. She’s a special one!


Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty  – we’ll help you find your way home.

2 Comments

Filed under Gardening

Spotlight on the Starflower

Posted by Sandi

Spring arrived early this year and the calendar is turning quickly. It seems like every time I look around, there’s something new blooming in my native plant garden. Mother Nature has expertly planned a succession of blooms so there’s never a moment without color or interest. Just when I’m lamenting the loss of the beautiful calypso orchids

Broadleaf Starflower

Broadleaf Starflower on Orcas Island…the Broadleaf Starflower steps up to center stage. Her delicate green leaves begin emerging in early spring as she creeps quietly along shady paths, playing the supporting role. Then suddenly she erupts with a sea of pale pink stars that last through June. All with zero effort on my part.

Broadleaf Starflower on Orcas Island

The effect at dusk or on a moonlit night is magical!

Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty  – we’ll help you find your way home.

6 Comments

Filed under Gardening, Nature

A Transplant Grows Native-Crazy

Posted by Sandi

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a native plant buff. When I moved from Florida to Orcas I was excited to start learning about the extraordinary native plants here in the Pacific Northwest. Our property is sloped and rocky, partially wooded, with moss and deer everywhere. So gardening with natives has turned out to be both practical and rewarding. An even bigger benefit, though, is conserving and promoting biodiversity. (Read this article to fully understand why this is so important.) I thought I’d share a few of my most-used resources and links:

Wallace W Hansen Garden Planner

This hand-illustrated guide is no longer on the Wallace H Hansen website, but I have a pdf copy I can share.

My hard-copy library includes the following:

  • Wild Plants of the San Juan Islands – Atkinson/Sharpe
  • Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest – Kruckeberg
  • Native Plants in the Coastal Garden – Pettinger/Costanzo
  • Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest – Link

I just had a fantastic onsite consultation this week with Michael Budnick and Laura Gibbons of Northwest Concepts. They are the go-to native plant landscapers in the San Juan Islands. I’m going to start implementing some of their ideas this fall and will post updates.

Got any favorite native plant resources? Please share!

 

Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty  – we’ll help you find your way home.

2 Comments

Filed under Gardening, Nature

Searching For Island Fairies – The Elusive Calypso Orchid

Posted by Sandi

Our native Calypso Orchid - isn't she a beauty?

The cooler wetter spring we’re having is rewarding us with extended bloom times. As our aquifer is recharging, both natives and ornamentals are flourishing (as well as the pesky weeds!). And for those who know where to look: the tiny Calypso Orchid — also known as the Fairy Slipper — one of 42 native orchids in Washington State.

Taking the name “Calypso” from the Greek meaning “to hide”, she lives in seclusion, requiring just the right combination of shade, moisture and fungus in the forest duff to pop up in the spring. If you kneel down to take a picture, take care not to compress the ground around her. She doesn’t like that. And for heaven’s sake, don’t dig her up – she won’t survive!

A clan of Calypsos peeking above Broadleaf Starflower in my woodland garden. They're thriving this year because I put a fence around them to create a "fairy garden."

We have the ideal climate for the Calypso Orchid on Orcas Island, but if you’re interested in trying to grow this pretty, you must be very patient – she can germinate for years before sprouting a tiny leaf the size of your fingernail! A good source for growing tips (and also for bulbs and seed) is The Calypso Orchid Company.

Now that you know how delicate she is, next time you discover her you’ll have a new  appreciation for our little native fairy. Walk lightly!

Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty  – we’ll help you find your way home.

3 Comments

Filed under Gardening, Nature