Nettles, ramps, and hedgehogs! Strange sounding, aren’t they? Certainly they don’t sound like something you’d want to see on your dinner plate. But Chef Bill will change your mind about that when these spring crops come in!
Nettles are a nutritious green found in rich soil, moist woodlands, thickets, and along rivers. Loaded with vitamins C and A, iron, fiber and even protein, they’ve often been called a “super food,” and are especially popular in Italy and Greece. They are covered with stinging hairs that inject you with several chemicals including formic acid – the same as fire ants. That means PAIN! But don’t worry, Bill will wear gloves to blanch them and render them safe for eating. You’ll see them in a creamy nettle sauce with grilled shrimp over fresh fettuccini.
Ramps are wild onions native to North America. The bulbs look like scallions, but the leaves are broad and flat. Well known as a spring delicacy, the flavor and scent of ramps is a combination of onions and garlic, and can be just as strong. They add wonderfully unique pungent flavor to dishes, and can be used raw or cooked in any recipe calling for scallions or leeks. Chef Bill will pair them with troll caught Alaskan King salmon with a nettle cream sauce on a bed of housemade fettucine.
Hedgehog is a strange name for a mushroom, but more appealing is their other name, “sweet tooth.” Whatever you call them, mushroom enthusiasts love them. Unlike most mushrooms, hedgehogs have tooth-like projections rather than gills on the lower surface of their cap. These orange, yellow, or tan fungi either grow as shelves on trees, or on the forest floor. They have a buttery mild chanterelle flavor, slightly sweet and nutty, with a firm, dense texture. You’ll taste them in the Wild Mushroom and Quinoa Stuffed Pepper and in Fresh Cannelloni with Artichokes, Baby Spinach, and Pomodoro Sauce.