Spring’s first wild greens can be an unexpectedly delicious tonic, but don’t wait long for a feed of Stinging Nettles; pick carefully into a colander, rinse under lots of cold running water, and drop into a hot pan sizzling with butter while still wet …but don’t touch!
Wear rubber or leather gloves while you’re picking, as nasty stings from fine hairs cause a burning sensation that last too long. But the reward is in eating(or drinking) more chlorophyll, protein, carotene, iron and minerals that any other land or sea plant can offer (plus,they’re really really tasty). Read more about nutrition here, or you might think I’m just making up how really good they are. Like lots of wild greens, they get bitter after the first flush of Spring, so get right to it.
Completely harmless when cooked (or dried for tea), Stinging Nettles taste similar to spinach or kale, with a texture similar to cooked watercress.In fact you can substitute them for any cooked greens in recipes, but never eat them raw.
Simple Fried Nettles: Saute in a large pan with melted butter or olive oil and some finely chopped garlic, and add a splash of water (if needed) to help steam them while stirring until tender, or for about 2-3 minutes.
I always anticipate early Spring for eating heaps of these fried nettles on toasted bread with poached eggs, or packing raw shoots tightly into a mason jar filled with vodka for making medicinal tincture for later. I’m already scoping out the ditches and “waste areas” around here for more (after eating my first batch directly from the skillet), next time for tossing with ricotta, fresh snipped chives, and angel hair pasta, topped with crispy pancetta caramelized in maple syrup…which I can get from very special neighbours the Miller’s, who fortunately also sell fresh eggs. Maybe Pinch Gourmet (280 Main St., Picton) will re-open soon enough for pancetta, before it’s time for “everything rhubarb”.
The Miller’s place
Best picked with gloves in April or early May, I snip them at their base with a sharp scissor; grip each stalk gently between the scissor blades and drop directly into a colander, ready for rinsing and cooking.
This is almost enough for one …
That patch of wild leeks I just found will have to wait for a bit…I’m away from the kitchen and getting the cottage ready for rentals. And then back to T.O for a few days. Are there any nettles in your neighbourhood? and how do you use them? Let me know at ruth@ruthscanteendotcom.