Nourish your wild side
Stinging nettle has an earthy, spinach-like taste
When I informed an editor I was writing about stinging nettles, he said: “Do I want to eat something called stinging nettles?” My quick response was: Yes! Stinging nettles have an earthy, slightly bitter, spinach-like taste with hints of cucumber and black pepper.
“Nettles are edible all spring and summer, until they flower, but are at their best when young and tender,” says Alison Colwell of the Galiano Club Food Program in B.C.
There is a catch, though; You have to harvest stinging nettles yourself (see sidebar for tips). Look for them along roadsides, trail edges, disturbed ground, forest clearings, streams and pond edges.
“Most recipes will call for the amount of fresh nettles, so it’s easy to tell how much you need. And once you’ve found a good patch, it’s easy (and fast) to fill your basket,” Colwell said.
Alison Colwell’s Nesto
Use this inviting nesto as you would basil-flavoured pesto. Prep. time: 10 minutes Cooking time: About 4 minutes Makes: About 3 cups (750 mL) 3 cups (750 mL) stinging nettle leaves (no stems)
6 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup (125 mL) walnut halves
Salt and pepper, to taste Splash of lemon juice, or to taste 3/4 to 1 cup (180 to 250 mL) olive oil 1 cup (250 mL) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Steam the nettles until just softened, about four minutes; cool to room temperature.
Place garlic, walnuts, salt, pepper and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until well-blended. Add the nettles and blend. While the blade is turning, slowly add up to 1 cup (250 mL) olive oil. Mix in the Parmesan cheese and the nesto is ready.
Chickpeas are a versatile platform for the flavour of many wild foods. Greens, mushrooms and seaweed all work well in this mixture.
4 cups (1 L) stinging nettle tips
2 cups (500 mL) cooked chick-
peas 1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh garlic Zest and juice of 1 lemon 1/4 cup (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp (5 mL) hot sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Soak nettles in plenty of cold water. Rinse and drain them. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the nettles and cook for 30 seconds or until the nettles are limp and dark green. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs and transfer to a large bowl of cold water. When cool, drain the nettles and squeeze out all moisture. You will end up with a small ball of nettles. Coarsely chop the nettles.
In a food processor, purée the nettles and chickpeas until a coarse mixture forms. Add the garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice. Continue to purée the mixture, adding the olive oil in a slow stream until the mixture is very smooth.
Add the hot sauce and season well with salt and pepper. Pulse to mix, then transfer to a serving dish, drizzle with a little more olive oil, and serve with rustic bread or pita bread.
Stinging Nettle Gomae
This recipe comes from The Deerholme Foraging Book (Touch- Wood Editions) by Chef Bill Jones. Gomae translates to “sesame” in Japanese and is usually a dish made with spinach.
8 cups (2 L) stinging nettle tops
2 tbsp (30 mL) soy sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) grapeseed oil
1 tsp (5 mL) sesame oil 1 tbsp (15 mL) mirin 1 tbsp (15 mL) white sesame seeds
Soak nettles in plenty of cold water. Rinse and drain. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add nettles and cook for 30 seconds, or until the nettles are limp and dark green. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs and transfer to a large bowl of cold water to shock (chill) the nettles, which stops the cooking process.
Drain nettles and squeeze out all moisture. You will end up with a softball-sized lump of nettles. Coarsely chop the nettles.
In a mixing bowl, add soy sauce, grapeseed oil, sesame oil and mirin. Whisk until uniform, then add nettles and sesame seeds, and toss well to mix. Let sit for 5 minutes. Serve at room temperature.
This mixture will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
IS THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK
is a Eurasian nettle that has naturalized in North America.
such as vitamins A, C and D, iron and calcium.
that can inject irritants into your skin. Before heading out to harvest it, Alison Colwell of the Galiano Club Food Program in B.C. advises equipping yourself with garden gloves, scissors or garden snippers and a basket.
— instead of tearing — to cut the top six leaves (the best bit) off the plant, the roots remain undisturbed and the plant will continue to grow.
the leaves will get rid of the sting.
Stinging nettles hummus, a dish where wild food flavours a versatile chickpea platform.