Today's post is a love letter to nettles. Yes, stinging nettles. Yes, they will sting you. Yes, they are common weeds. Yes, I saw them for sale (!!!) in the local greenhouse this weekend and laughed and laughted and laughed! They are so common, that really, you do not need to buy them. Most people can find them nearby to wildcraft (harvest from the wild). They are wonderful for so many reasons: food, medicine, and fiber. I love nettles. This is a great time of year to harvest them because they are young and tender and especially yummy.
If you don't know what nettles look like, or how to harvest them, I'd start here. I typically harvest them bare-handed, but I am in the minority here. Most people will want to use gloves and long sleeved shirts. They WILL sting you when fresh, but when dried, wilted, or cooked, they do not. Even the "sting" is good for some people - I personally know several people who deliberately "sting" them selves with nettle to relieve their arthritis symptoms. They swear by it. So...there you have it.
Still want more info? Okay - here's some more nettle info and pics.
Now. Are you convinced that nettles are indeed a) extremely good for you (a traditional spring tonic and one of the healthiest greens you can eat, and b) delicious? Okay, now it's time to cook. I love this non-recipe for
nettle soup. It's foolproof and versatile.
Susan's recipe for Nettle Spanakopita shows that nettles can be as highbrow or lowbrow as you like.
And here's a veritable treasure trove of nettle recipes: Nettle risotto, nettle frittata, nettle with pasta, and more!
You don't NEED to have a specific nettle recipe to use them. Simply replace nettles your favorite recipe that utilizes cooked greens. My favorite ways to use nettles are usually in a crustless quiche (beacuse I am extremely lazy), and sauteed with garlic and olive oil and put on pizza or over pasta.
Eating fresh young nettles is just the beginning. They're also tinctured and made into teas,the mature stalks are used for fiber, or the mature seedheads are collected and ground as a yummy and nutritious grain. And of COURSE it has many applications in skin and hair care. So this is just the first post on nettle...as the season progresses I'll be adding more information about how and why to use nettles.