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Sometimes luscious green pastures and patches of what most people think are weeds are actually nutritious ingredients to add to our dinners or salads and to Irish Boxty.
Sometimes luscious green pastures and patches of what most people think are weeds are actually nutritious ingredients to add to our dinners or salads and to Irish Boxty.

Not Your Usual Spring Greens

Feb 19, 2020
by Kelly Smith, Agricultural Community Events Farmers Markets


Seems Spring is coming early this year. February was filled with bright sunny days bringing us luscious green pastures and patches of what most people think are weeds but I find them nutritious ingredients to add to our dinners or salads. 

One of those "weeds" I love is stinging nettle.  I have been cultivating a little patch in a nice shaded area of our yard since they're sometimes hard to find at the farmers' markets. I do know a few farms that bring them to market and I pick them up whenever I see them. They are great to add to soups, salads and savory baked goods. 

Stinging Nettle is found world wide but it's origin is traced back to Europe, Asia and North Africa. You can find Stinging Nettle all over the U.S. except for Hawaii. Nettle has been used since 3000 B.C. It was used mostly in textiles throughout the ages. You can find stories of nettles being used for medicinal purposes as far back as Ancient Egypt. Native Americans hold the plant in high regard due it's medicinal properties. 

When cooked the flavor of nettles can be similar to spinach with cucumber. It's rich in Vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, manganese and calcium. In it's peak season, nettle contains up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green. It's best to harvest the plants when they are young in the Spring. Soaking the nettles in water or cooking them removes the stinging chemicals from the plant. Nettles can be used to make herbal tea. They offer their rich flavor and great health benefits to polenta, pesto and purée. Nettle soups are common in Northern and Eastern Europe. In Greece, young leaves are used, after simmering, as a filling for hortopita, which is a similar to spanakopita. 

I am always looking for new uses for stinging nettle. Also, being born on St Patrick's Day I'm constantly in need to find foods that honor the holiday but are not corned beef and cabbage. I guess I was scarred by a childhood of corned beef and cabbage birthday dinners made by my mom. This year we will be serving Boxty an Irish potato scone meets latke. Below is a easy recipe that includes stinging nettle and dandelion greens, another "weed" that is so good for you! 

Irish Boxty with Nettle and Dandelion for St Patrick’s Day

Irish boxty. Image

• 1/3 of pound of potatoes, boiled 

• 1/3 of pound of potatoes, uncooked and grated 

• 2 tablespoons flour 

• 2 tablespoons milk 

• salt to taste 

• 1 small bunch of young stinging nettle 

• 1 small bunch of dandelion greens 

• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, I like to use sunflower oil 


  1.  Blanch stinging nettles and dandelion greens in hot water for 30 seconds. You can add them to the potatoes towards the end of their cooking time. 

  2.  In a large bowl mash the boiled potatoes until smooth. 

  3.  Add the grated uncooked potatoes, blanched nettles, dandelion greens roughly chopped, salt and flour.

  4.  Add milk until you have a soft batter. You may need to add more milk depending on your potatoes. 

  5.  Heat oil in a skillet. Add in a large spoonful of potato mixture. Push down with spoon to create a pancake. Repeat until there is no longer room in the pan. 

  6.  Cook on Medium High heat for 2-3 minutes. 

  7.  Flip and cook other side. 

 Serve with traditional Irish sausage and eggs for a lovely St Patrick's Day breakfast. 


Kelly Smith is Executive Director of Agricultural Community Events Farmers Markets, a local nonprofit that operates 8 Sonoma County Farmers Markets.


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