Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nettles: My First Forage of the Spring

The Nettles
 The nettles I know live near a stream, on a low-lying flood plain.  I've known other nettles in the past, which also lived near water.  This may be because they like the moist land; or, it may be because that's where I walk and get nosy about the indigenous plants.  At any rate, if you're not careful, you'll never forget where they meet you the first time.  They can sting!  They have tiny little hypodermic hairs that deliver a nice dose of an irritant that will make you remember!  There are a few ways to deal with the burn: you can enjoy it (if you're a masochist), you can enjoy the relief from arthritis (if you have it and the pain distracts you), you can apply some dock, plantain or jewelweed (if you know what they look like), or you can cry and never go near it again.  I do NOT recommend the last option, because once tamed, nettles are a healthy and delicious addition to a forager's diet.
        Once you've identified them, wear gloves to gather them in the field.  I wore a glove on one hand and held my scissor in the other, and that worked well for me.  If your nettles are plentiful, just snip off the top section of the plant (4 leaves and stem) for the most tender dinner.

Nettles Soaking
  Wear rubber gloves to wash your nettles.  Transfer them to a pot of rapidly boiling, salted water to blanch them (for about 2 - 3 minutes), then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking.  That'll take care of those stingers!  At this point, you can spin or towel them dry, and freeze them for later, or go on to prepare them like any other cooked green.

Chopped Nettles
 My original plan was to make some nettle noodles, but I ran out of time, so I decided to saute them with a few other greens I had on hand.  First, dandelion (I weeded the garden that day).

My Favorite Spring Plant: Dandelion

Dandelion Root: I Chop It, and Dry It for Tea

The Emerging Meal
 I added a handful of chopped kale to the nettle and dandelion mix, and sauteed it all in butter.  It needed a bit of moisture, so I used a splash of organic chicken broth.  There were a few leftover shrimp in the fridge, so they were tossed in, too. 

The Final Dish
And then, just for the color, I added a few chopped sweet red peppers,  Very festive!  And very delicious!  Peter and I both loved this dish.  I'll make it again. I can't wait to gather some more nettles!  Next stop: nettle pasta!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, I am anxious to pick up nettles for the first time.
    I wish I knew more about how they look when very young. We have lots around, but many other weeds too.
    I studied your pictures carefully, thanks again.
    Also, any tips on preserving? Can they be dried for herb and tea later on?