Stinging Nettles—A Delicious Spring Tonic

These are a great and healthful green to eat, but they must only be eaten cooked or used dried. Take care when handling, they will sting while raw. It takes very little cooking to shed the stinging. Just blanch quickly in boiling water, or steam—they can even be dried.

The Nettle tribe, Urticaceae, is widely spread over the world and contains about 500 species, mainly tropical, though several, like our common Stinging Nettle, occur widely in temperate climates. Many of the species have stinging hairs on their stems and leaves, and many are much more painful than ours.

The Stinging Nettle species, belonging to the genus Urtica(the name derived from the Latin, uro, to burn), are well known for the burning properties of the fluid contained in the stinging hairs with which the leaves are so well armed.

Livestock will not approach a living nettle bed, but will happily eat the wilted stems and leaves. We have started feeding nettles to our hens as it is reported to increase egg-laying, as well as milk production in dairy animals. Some cheesemakers extract a form of vegetable rennet from green nettles, and the boiled leaves make a green fabric dye.

Recipes swiped from Mariquita Farm in California.

Sauteed Nettles with Green Garlic & Olive Oil

1 1⁄4 # Nettles, Cleaned
3 tbsp. Green Garlic (Chopped)
1/2 cup Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper (To Taste)

1. First preheat a large sauté pan on medium high heat, (one large enough to accommodate the nettles—you can use a large pot as well).

2. Pour 1⁄4 cup of the olive oil into the preheated pan. Then put all of the green garlic into the pan sauté briefly for about 30 seconds, just enough time for the green garlic to release its essential oils, being sure not to brown or burn the green garlic. Place the nettles into the pan and give it a good stir, let sit for just a second and then continue the stirring process.

3. Once the nettles are completely wilted place them on a plate, drizzle with the rest of the olive oil and place a couple of lemon wedges for garnish.

Note: Nettles do not have the water content of spinach or other similar greens so it helps to put a couple tablespoons of water into the pan after the nettles have started cooking, just to hurry the cooking process. Some people don’t add the water, because they like the crispy texture and nutty flavor of the nettles when you sauté them.

Nettle Frittata

1/2# Cleaned Nettle Tops
4 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove, Chopped
6 Large Organic Eggs
1/4 cup Heavy Cream
Salt & Pepper to Taste

1. Preheat oven to 300º Cook one-third of the nettles in one tablespoon of the olive oil in a non-stick pan. Cook until tender adding a small amount of water if needed. Repeat this 2 more times adding the garlic on the third batch.

2. Place all of the cooked nettles on a cutting board and chop finely. Place the nettles in a bowl of a food processor with the eggs, salt, pepper and process until the nettles are incorporated into the eggs. Add the cream and process for 10 seconds.

3. Heat the non-stick pan on medium with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the nettle mixture and with a rubber spatula move the eggs around to get the entire mixture warm. Place into the oven and cook for about 12 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes then turn the frittata out onto a plate and cut

Nettle Soup

1⁄2 lb. fresh nettles
1 quart chicken broth
1 hard boiled egg
1 tbs. butter

1. Rinse nettles. The soft stalks can be used, but if you pick nettles of fully grown plants, use only the leaves. Put rinsed nettles in a pan with a quart of water. Put to a boil. Push down the nettles into the water. When all nettles have been softened, drain liquid from nettles. Puree the nettles and mix with the chicken broth.

2. Heat up mixture, add salt and pepper to taste. Add chives, or a dash of garlic if desired.

As this is considered a spring dish in Scandinavia and Russia, an egg, which symbolizes rebirth, is often added. You may add some lovely quail eggs, or half an egg. The white and yellow looks especially nice as a center piece of the soup. The most elegant version is to chop an egg and mix it with soft butter. Put mixture onto some plastic wrap, and form into a sausage. Refrigerate until hardened. When ready to serve soup, cut egg/butter mixture into thick slices and put into center of soup plates.

Nettle Tisane

YOU NEED:1 pyrex measuring cup, Boiling Water, and Nettles to loosely fill 1/3 to 1/2 of the measuring cup, including stems.

1. Soak the nettles in cool/cold water for a few minutes.

2. Boil the water.

3. Rinse nettles, using tongs or dishwashing gloves to not sting your hands.

4. Place cleaned nettles in measuring cup or teapot or glass bowl, pour water over to fill cup, and steep the ‘tisane’ (a tea made with fresh herb) for 5 or so minutes. Enjoy.


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