laupäev, oktoober 06, 2007

Little Bastards

We have a bit of an orchard in our backyard here in Tartu. Several apple-bearing trees, some that bring forth golden apples, others green, and then there's the two or three trees in the corner whose apples mature into a ripe and ruddy red.

I was unaware of the apple trees in our backyard when we decided to move in, but then they burst forth in late spring, thousands upon thousands of orbs suspended by limp branches weighed down by their abundance.

We would all go out on a summer day to gather up the hundreds of apples that had dropped over a week or so, only to walk out the following morning to see that hundreds more had fallen down overnight. On occasion, I would be picking up falling apples only to have one cascade down from the tree above and hit me ~plonk~ on the forehead. It was on one of these apple foraging missions that I met again a small Estonian plant known as nõges.

You see, originally I thought Estonian nature was harmless. In the New York woods where I grew up, nature was not so nice. There was poison ivy, which kept me home from school a few times, and if you didn't get that, poison oak and poison sumac had ivy's back to make sure your experience of the forest would be absolutely miserable.

On top of the rash-inducing shiny leaves of North America, there were also the many berries that one should not eat unless they planned on getting very sick and/or dying. When I was a kid, the most plentiful berries in the forest were not charming murakad. They were the ominous sounding bloodberries, which were only good for throwing at one another. And bloodberries always stained your clothing.

But I had yet to encounter anything as unsavory as bloodberries or poison ivy during my time in Estonia until I encountered nõges. I was reaching down to pick up an apple when ~ouch~ something stung me. It was those damn leaves. I had been stung by nõgesed twice before, both times in forests in Viljandimaa, but I had forgotten how similar to a bee sting it really was.

I looked at my hand. There was a red stripe from where the little bastard had decided to sink its little feelers into my flesh. After I hauled my bucket of red apples inside, I approached Epp, still rubbing my hand, and blurted out: "those leaves bit me!" to which she responded with wicked laughter and in a mocking voice repeated back, "leaves bit me", this time crying with laughter. I guess the way I said it was unusual. But that's exactly how it felt-

According to the trusty Wikipedia, kõrvenõges -- the kind of nõges that stung me -- is known as 'stinging nettle' in English. Apparently it is found in North America too, but it is far more common in Europe. If you want to see a photo of its tiny jaws, click here. So next time I'll keep my eyes peeled for the nõgesed in our garden. And if you happen to get bitten by a nõges, I feel your pain and I promise I won't laugh.

12 kommentaari:

Andres ütles ...

It's nõgesed and kõrvenõges.

Laura ütles ...

Yeah, I felt them for the first time in Viljandimaa. Ouch. They really do sting.

Wv Sky ütles ...

Stinging nettles are very common here in the States, and especially from Pa on down south. I killed a bunch this year in my neighbors yard so that they wouldn't spread. I'm surprised you haven't run across them even in NY.

illi ütles ...

Ah, the infamous kõrvenõges... but as a tea it works wonders on low mineral levels in bones, low energy levels and cures horrid things like gout.

The only thing in nature I have not been able to figure out a positive reason for existence for is fleas.

Katherine ütles ...

Not just as a tea; incidentally, nõgesesupp and nõgesesalat can be rather tasty for a change.
Get even with them, Giustino! Bite them back... literally. Google for recipes: nõgesesupp, nõgesesalat. ;)

Pille ütles ...

I second Katherine - kõrvenõgesesupp is a great spring/early summer dish, served with some boiled eggs (see here:)

Giustino ütles ...

Thanks Andres, I fixed my mistakes.

And WV Sky, I spent a lot of time in the woods on Long Island and never met the stinging nettle. Maybe it's more common farther south.

Kristiina ütles ...

I wonder if Epp mentioned that kõrvenõgesed are also used in the sauna.. and that means beating yourself voluntarily with them.. how cool is that!!! lol

gaborien ütles ...

luckily I didn't find nõgesed nor kõrvenõges in my garden but I'm flooded with apples. I already don't know what else to do with them...

Blogaddict ütles ...

Try using the good old American solution: mow your lawn. Although it might disturb the overall bohemian ambiance and Tartu vaim of the place, it is sure to get rid of all maltsad, ohakad ja nõgesed. :-)

Wahur ütles ...

gaborien - choices are many.
Jam - absolutely delicious. Juice - super. Wine - takes some learning and time but will go down really nice. And distilling this wine gives really nice stuff, too (please note that this is illegal around here, even for your own consumption - but unless you start selling they will not find out).
Ahh, and baked apples are gorgeous.
Anyway use them as much as you can, after such year you'll have nothing next year.

dresolve ütles ...

When I was in eesti this summer on a bog hike through the soo outside of Vana Vigala, I had my first encounter with those little buggers. I'm from NY too and did plenty of camping when I was younger, I've learned very well what poison ivy, oak, and sumac look like and to avoid them, but I never had heard of nettles before that trek through the eesti soo.