One of my all time favorite spring foods I use personally is nettle. Yes, thats right, that stinging "weed" everyone hates is a little powerhouse plant! I love it so much I've spent the last 2 years trying HARD to cultivat3 it in my yard. When I see people dreading it and hosing it down in round up I swear a bit of me dies EVERY TIME. I use this in tea which helps lower my insulin resistance and keeps my blood sugars managable. You can boil it, fry it, stick it in a stew (headnod to Samwise from Lord of the Rings). Literally.
They literally sting because of the little hairs on their stem. A built in plant defense system if you will. Its not a noxious weed. Its a spring gift from our ancestors! So what are the nutritional benefits? Many!
Potassium: 297mg (8% daily value)
Carbs(energy): 7mg (2% daily value)
Dietary Fiber: 6mg(24% daily value)
Protien: 2.4mg(4% daily value)
Calcium: 42% daily value
Magnesium: 12% daily value
Vitamin B6: 5% daily value
Iron: 8% daily value
This is simply in 1 cup! It has high pecentage of fiber which helps your gut clean out. It helps your liver, kidneys and can even help reduce inflammation. **I am not a licensed medical professional so....this is informational....*
I personally love the earthy flavor in my tea. Its light, easy to drink and combines GREAT with honey or maple syrup/sugar. Sauteeing it with quail eggs or adding in a stew are also great ways to enjoy this beautiful plant. I always see it as a plant with attitude! Thus when you go to harvest it, make sure you are wearing thick gloves! The stinging effect goes away after the picked leaves have wilted or have been dried for tea.
This time of year we traditionally would search for small game. One of those being wabooz (wah-booze) which is rabbit! If you haven’t tried wabooz jerky you are missing out! Wild rabbits have less body mass than my meat rabbits. However, raising meat rabbits is a great way to incorporate a traditional meat source that won’t annoy the neighbors! Though wabooz is small they carry a huge amount of protein which would explain why, during winter, we sought them out. The following is the nutritional facts on a simple 3 oz portion!
Total Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 105 mg
Potassium: 292 mg
Sodium: 38 mg
Total carbohydrates: 0
Protein: 28 g
Vitamin B6: 15%
If you take a look at this tiny critter from a nutritional standpoint it’s a great winter boost. A lot of people see cholesterol as a bad thing, but truthfully there’s good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. (I am not a medical professional by any means, however I dedicate a lot of time to knowing nutrition of what I cook.) The protein level of rabbit is 40% of what you are supposed to eat daily, that is in a 3oz portion! Wabooz is also packed with B vitamins. Why is this important? Because B vitamins helps convert food to energy! Cobalamin is another B vitamin, and B6 is responsible for helping your immune system and neurological (brain) function!
People tell me they don’t want to invest in eating rabbit because there’s not a lot there. But from a nutritional perspective you don’t need to gorge yourself on it to be full! Such a helpful little animal that we are blessed to have. I like to marinate the trimmed off meat an back straps in maple syrup overnight then pop it in my dehydrator until mostly dried for jerky! I also make stew, pot pies and shredded meat for a quick bite on the go. The first time I made slow cooked wabooz for my family my kids didn’t know what it was when I had them try it. My son said “this is really good chicken mom” and my daughter said, “it’s too squishy to be chicken but it tastes good”. Then they gave me the “what did you have us eat” stare. I told them it was rabbit. They explained the flavor and texture quite well. Soft meat that isn’t as dense as chicken with the flavor of chicken.
When I slow cook my rabbit, I like to do so by adding a package of cranberries, some maple sugar and water. I cook it on low heat for up to 5 hrs or until it hits 165 degrees for food safety. I reserve the water it cooked in after straining it. After shredding the meat off it for soup or sandwiches I break the bones and put them in the reserved water with onion, celery and carrot then put it on low heat on the stove without stirring for several hours. This makes the most amazing, flavorful broth! It freezes well so you can keep it for a while!
Here's a video I did with Walleye gotten by brother Corey and gifted to me, crusted in chestnut and sumac.
Aanii! To go with our teachings I am adding some info the next few weeks on some traditional foods we have and can still eat. In thr spring, after a long winter, there would be greens that we needed to add to our diet to rebuild strength lost during winter. I'll teach you about several we can still find today as well as fish which was some of our first spring meat. So over the next couple weeks I'll be making posts about what to find and eat as we thaw out from winter
Ramps AKA Wild Leek
One green we would search for are ramps. I spent a lot of time in the woods hunting down this elusive food. If you can find them you don't easily miss them again because you start noticing them everywhere! Ramps, when picked, have an onion/garlic smell. They have flat, broad leaves and unfortunately grow amongst what is called lily of the valley, which is toxic to eat. Lilly of the valley has similar leaf structures to ramps. The key differences are the smell, the flower (little white bell shapes means its not a ramp), and ramps have a burgundy color at the base.
It's important to sustainably harvest them. It can take up to 7 years for a new ramp plant to grow if they are ripped out. Many people like to dig up the entire plant, roots and all. Frankly my favorite and most used part are the leaves. Traditionally we'd use them to add to soups, salads and my personal favorite is wrapping a spring fish in them and slow smoking it. This infuses the fish with the ramp flavor and is tasty!
I only take 1 leaf from each plant to allow them to grow so each year I can have some. I like to dehydrate them for 6 hours until they are crisp. I'll then grind them down into smaller peices I can use in winter! Nothing beats a venison stew with ramp in the broth, or slow cooking rabbit with dried ramps. Now I'm getting hungry! The best part is just how healthy these are for you!
1 Cup Contains The Following
13 grams of carbs
31% Vitamin A
28% Vitamin C
The % is how much of your daily amount the ramp has. 31% means 31 out of 100 and for a plant thats super high (read that as a good thing). It makes sense that it helped us recover strength and health after winter. It woud also give us healthy energy (calories and carbs) to go spearing and foraging. Later I'll add pictures to this to show what they and lily of the valley looks like.
Miigwetch for swinging by to learn foods! Hope you'll continue coming back!
Amik (Beaver) Recipe
1 beaver loin
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup molasses
4 tbsp crushed juniper berries
1. Mix maple syrup and molasses together, marinate beaver loin overnight in this mix to infuse the meat. (Beaver dries out super fast while cooking so it's essential to save the marinade for cooking).
2. Place loin in marinade in a baking dish or fire safe pan, if cooking over a fire. Add the crushed juniper berries. If the liquid doesn't come halfway up the loin, add equal amounts of maple syrup and molasses until it does. (If cooking in an oven, cook at 375 for 1 hr or until internal meat temperature reaches 165. 30 minutes into roasting, add 2 cups of berries of your choice.)
3. Shred the meat or thin slice after removing from roasting liquid and letting rest for 5 minutes.
*** Serve with manoomin (wild rice) that is cooked with the same type of berries for an added nutritious kick.