Wild Nettle Imam Bayaldi

If you’ve been following The Armenian Kitchen website, you
might be familiar with the recipe called Imam Bayeldi (spelling varies) which
was posted way back in 2010. 



The following story and recipe for Wild Nettle Imam Bayaldi
appeared in Smithsonian Magazine on September 27, 2018, and more recently in TheArmenian Mirror-Spectator.



I was asked by Christine Datian to share this with my readers, so please sit
back, relax, and read on. 

Hopefully, you’ll be inspired to try, not only this recipe, but others on The 1000 Leaf Project site. 


The Article:
Launched in 2016, The 1000 Leaf Project is a citizen-driven website that allows anyone in
Armenia to register a wild plant, providing details on where they found it, how
to harvest it and what recipes to try. It focuses on empowering people for an
end result that promotes and protects the rich biodiversity found in Armenia. (You’ll
find the text on this site in both Armenian and English.)



Contributed by Serda Ozbenian, the Executive Director of
the Earth Island Institute’s Armenian Environmental Network (AEN),
www.armenia-environment.org, this recipe calls for using wild stinging nettle.
Stinging nettle is on the list of Armenia’s more than 3,600 wild plant
species—a list that includes hundreds of edible varieties ranging from wild
asparagus, mint and oregano to tart sea buckthorn and sweet mallow, an herb
that formed the original basis for marshmallows. Ozbenian, Armine Sargsyan,
AEN’s former In-Country Director, and Lena Tachdjian (Tashjian)
, an environmental writer, collaborated with colleagues at the American
University of Armenia‘s Acopian Center for the Environment (AUA), a group that
promotes environmental conservation through research, to catalogue these edible
species with help from the community. Ozbenian incorporates stinging nettle in
her imam bayildi recipe. “Typically, you fill eggplant with onions and
tomatoes, but I made this version with nettle,” she said. “Sharing this recipe
is another way The1000 Leaf Project hopes to encourage users to interact with
Armenia’s varied environment,” she added.



The Recipe:

Wild Nettle Imam Bayaldi, image from 1000 Leaf Project

Wild Nettle Imam Bayaldi*


This recipe calls for Armenia’s wild stinging nettle, but
Ozbenian says substituting American wild nettle will work as well in a pinch.

Note from Christine: If nettles are totally unavailable, spinach may be substituted.


Ingredients:
2 large eggplants, long and skinny kind
4 cups stinging nettle, stems removed, chopped 
2 medium tomatoes, chopped and sliced
2 small onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt, to taste
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil


Preparation:


First, cut off the ends of the eggplant, peel them in
strips (one white strip, one purple). Cut them in half lengthwise and then in
half again. Scoop out some of the insides to make a boat (set aside). Soak
eggplant pieces in a bowl of salted water (this softens them and reduces
bitterness), and set them aside while you prepare the other ingredients. Preheat
oven to 375 degrees F.



Chop onions and one tomato and press the garlic. Heat a 1/2
tablespoon of coconut oil in a pot and add ingredients to the pot. Sauté for 2
minutes on medium heat. Chop the nettle roughly and add it to the pot along
with the sugar, salt and the eggplant insides you set aside. Stir well, cover,
and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes.



While the nettle mixture is cooking, remove the eggplant
pieces from the water, squeeze out any excess water and place them on an oven
safe pan. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Add 1/4 cup water to bottom
of the pan. Cover the pan with foil and place it in the oven for 20 minutes
(the eggplant should be soft but not cooked thoroughly).



Fill each eggplant with nettle mixture, cover again, and put
back in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove the foil, add thin slices of tomato
to each eggplant boat, and sprinkle with a touch of salt and sugar. Place back
in the oven uncovered until the water has evaporated and the eggplant is cooked
thoroughly, about 10 minutes.



*This recipe appeared in Smithsonian on September 27, 2018,
go to:
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/armenias-edible-landscape-1000-leaf-project-180970426/#xhpksCq7Gx7zbGzV.99.
For information and recipes: http://1000leaf.aua.am/. To contribute:
https://www.armenia-environment.org/blog/thousand-leaf-announcement. The AEN is
a project of Earth Island Institute, based in Berkeley, California. AEN’s
mission is to facilitate tangible contributions to Armenia’s sustainable
development by increasing awareness of and supporting solutions to
environmental issues in Armenia.


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