I’ve been making a concerted effort to get out into nature more often. To unplug and leave the city; to get away from it all. It’s been awesome.
Last week, the husband and I ventured into the Columbia River Gorge to look for morel mushrooms. Let me tell you right now, this not nearly as cool as it sounds. We are complete amateurs and have no idea what we’re doing. We searched and searched for hours and didn’t find a single morel. However, our foraging efforts were not in vain, as we did find a whole bunch of stinging nettles.
If you’re wary about the idea of eating stinging nettles, I don’t blame you one bit. Nettles are designed to inflict pain and injury! If you’ve ever been stung by a nettle, you know exactly what I’m talking about. They hurt. And yet, here I am, telling you to go into the woods and pick the damn things and eat them. It sounds insane, I know.
But I’m telling you, give nettles a chance. These prickly little plants are remarkably good for you. According to the Examiner, nettles are “high in potassium, iron, sulphur, vitamin C, vitamin A and B complex vitamins nettles provide a high amount of dense nutrition with very little calories. The sulphur makes them great for the hair, skin, and nails.” All that to say, nettles are a superfood.
So, now that we’ve established that nettles are a superfood, we should discuss harvesting nettles. Here’s the thing about foraging for nettles: they are everywhere. They grow like weeds, literally. Nettles aren’t hard to find, but they are slightly complicated to pick & cook. Here’s my advice: wear gloves (when picking) and use tongs (when cooking). When picking nettles in the wild, be sure to wear gloves and store the nettles in a paper or plastic bag (nothing with holes or mesh!). The smaller the nettle, the more tender the leaves. I’ve read that nettles are best picked when they are knee height or below. (However, if the nettles are taller, you can just pluck the tops off.)
Once you’ve picked a bag full of nettles, the sky’s the limit! (Just make sure you don’t attempt to eat nettles in their raw form: you must blanch nettles in boiling water before you can eat them.) Nettles have a flavor similar to spinach, and can be used in a variety of different ways. I’ve made nettle pesto, nettle spanikopita, nettle scrambles, and more.
As for a recipe? I’m going to keep it simple. Here’s what I did: I quickly blanched the nettles in boiling water for 2 minutes. (Note: use tongs to handle the raw nettles!) I then removed the nettles from the boiling water and gave them a quick rinse with cold water (to stop the cooking process). I let them drain in a strainer for a few minutes and then gave them a quick squeeze, to remove any extra moisture. Once drained, I threw them into a food processor with toasted almonds, olive oil, lime juice, 2 cloves of garlic, red chili flakes, salt, and pepper. (Note: For some odd reason, I didn’t have any lemons. So I used a lime and it tasted great!).
I didn’t even bother tossing the pesto with pasta, I just slathered it on slices of crusty bread and ate it alongside some delicious cheeses and pickled veggies. It was perfect.