where chicken meets garden

I really love the intersection and overlap between my various interests–like the connection between gardening and cooking or cooking and parenting or…(the list goes on.) But now with the introduction of chickens into my life, I’ve realized there’s yet another hybrid zone of interest I can cultivate–the cross between gardening and chickens. Last week I started thinking, “I wonder what plants I should specifically grow that the chickens would like to eat.”

Thanks to the joy of the Internet, a quick search resulted in a great article in Acres USA magazine about plants for poultry (download PDF version here). I learned a lot of interesting facts–like nasturtium (which I’ve grown for the edible flowers) also being an antiseptic, vermifuge (de-wormer) and insect repellent. But the most interesting discovery was about stinging nettles.

I’ve always been intrigued by nettles because there are so many delicious pasta recipes calling for them yet they are not exactly commmonplace in the produce section. And now to discover that they are excellent feed for poultry–not only because they are a preventative against worms, because moreso because they stimulate and increase egg production–wow. That’s all I needed to read before I was immediately tracking down someplace to buy the seed.

Most of the organic seed companies I usually order from have a pretty diverse and wide-ranging selection but stinging nettle still isn’t on the radar for most of them. I ended up tracking it down at Sand Mountain Herbs in Alabama. Yesterday when my order arrived I was delighted to find the seeds in plain brown envelopes with handwritten growing instructions from the owner, Larry Chandler. It was so refreshing to see the absence of “branding” and the evidence of someone actually having taken the time (and care) to personally write information out longhand. It really made my day.

Now I can’t wait to plant all these new items for my “poultry garden.” And of course I’m also thinking about all the future meals and recipes (for humans!) revolving around nettles. Though I realize the one area where it would be best if my interests didn’t overlap is between the stinging nettles and my children. Ouch!

3 thoughts on “where chicken meets garden”

  1. “Hybrid zones of interest…” I love it! I too am reflecting on the intersections of my cooking and and other interests. Food and writing, food and travel, food and gardening, cooking and design.
    Very interesting about the chickens and nettles. I had a chicken when I was growing up which laid a ton of super tasty eggs. The tree line at the back of my house was also thick with nettles. Now I understand why those eggs were so tasty! I would buy a bag of feed for the chicken so it always had some when it needed it but it would spend all day roaming the yard just like a dog and would feed on whatever it felt like.
    Perhaps some hybrid egg and nettle dishes in the future?

  2. if only my chickens liked the stinging nettles they have growing into their yard! they won’t touch it! i’ll be eager to see if yours like it. do be aware that nettles will spread! but if you and the chickens are eating it, that’s not a bad thing, now is it? : )

  3. I don’t mean to be disrespectful but people in West are ignorant about not the theoretical benefits (since any crap vitamin claims to have 100 good vitamins minerals) but about the great ADDICTIVE taste the nettle food has and the great objective feeling of well being that the regular consumption produces. I’ve been looking badly for it but it’s very hard to find.
    Try this recipe:
    1. Fill a pot completely with nettle and some water (preferably young if old just the tips). Wash it 5-10 times since it has sand.
    2. Get the nettle out and fill the pot with 50% clean water. Boil the water. Stick the nettle in for 1 minute or so.
    3. Get the nettle out and chop it thoroughly. In that water boil 2-3 cups of rice but not completely.Put the nettle back with 2-3 cloves of minced garlic and boil for few more minutes.
    4. When done remove from fire and as it cools down add a bit of oil and salt. Make it watery since it thicken in time. Keep it in the fridge and warm it up. It’s good for 2-3 days.

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