Thursday, May 03, 2007

stinging nettles for dinner

Does that very title give you goosebumps, like it does me? I admit, I was very skeptical about cooking and eating the things. After all, I've had enough run ins with them to know they can be very irritating in their raw form. They cause a blistering rash that lasts an hour or so.

But actually they are very good steamed or sauteed; once they are limp the chemical that causes the rash has been deactivated. They can be dried and steeped in a tea or infusion as well. Nettles are very rich in nutrients, even better than spinach or just about any other green.

These are the raw leaves. I wore gloves as I picked small plants and cut the leaves off. I don't know why some of them are purple on the underside; this disappeared with cooking.

I steamed them in a small amount of water, then added butter for flavor. I knew the amount of nettles I picked would not make for much of a meal, but The Hermit had a work function to attend tonight and I had no intention of inflicting this on the kids...yet. This was my substitute for spaghetti noodles. I'm trying to go gluten free, or almost so, for a while to see if I may be sensitive to it.

The nettles have an incredible rich green flavor, better than spinach or Swiss chard. But I think you'd have to have them picked young, and very fresh, to get the kind of flavor I experienced tonight. I guess I'm lucky to have them growing wild, in unexpected places like one of my garden beds. Maybe there's a market for them at the Farmers Market!


barefoot gardener said...

I am so glad that someone I "know" has tried this! I often read about eating nettles in articles or some of the older recipe books, but I have been too scared to try it. The memories of rubbing against them as a small child and suffering the consequences are still too fresh, I suppose. I don't know if your post is enough for me to actually try it, but I am definitely one step closer!

TDharma said...

I wouldn't know a nettle if it were thrust in front of my face!

I love cooked greens though, so this is intriguing. I steam up those ready pack salad bags of spring mix, and boy are they good. Especially if there is a good amount of arugala in it.

Thanks for the encouragement to try something new!

elise said...

I'm like tdharma, I don't know anything about nettles but ignorance has never kept my mouth shut before! So, I wonder if the purple is a phosphorus deficiency. My tomato seedlings have purple on them and I read that it is due to a phosphorus deficiency. Hmmm.