I was lucky and got this book for my birthday, quite a few years ago, titled 101 Uses for Stinging Nettles, by Piers Warren. Here is one of the many things I have gleaned from this little book.
Stinging Nettles are full of iron and important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, vitamins, A, C, D, E and K. The long list of nutritional benefits in nettles makes them a kind of nature’s super food. You can replace nettles in any recipe that call for cooked green vegetables, like spinach, kale or basil.
Pick the stinging nettles in the spring time when the first young tender leaves poke out from the forest floor. They can be found near streams in the forest, or ask your neighbours if they want to get rid of their nettle patch. Cut off the tender upper leaves, usually the top two or three pairs of leaves. Don’t pick ones that are white and flowering, this means that the plant is too old and tough to use.
Try to stay away from nettle patches that you know may be sprayed by pesticides.
You can pick nettles with rubber kitchen gloves and a pair of scissors. Hold a clean plastic bag underneath to catch the snipped leaves. Always wear long sleeves and long socks with your pant legs tucked in. I have picked nettles so often I don’t need gloves anymore. Develop your own style. The itchy, stinging parts are mainly on the leaves and not the stalks. Once nettles are cooked there is no sting, only tons of dark green nutrition. You can also air dry the leaves to use for nettle tea. If you add a handful of peppermint leaves with your nettle tea it improves the taste.
Soak the fresh nettle leaves in water to get rid of any bugs or dirt. Make sure to discard the stems. Using a pair of metal tongs, blanch the leaves in a pot of boiling water for a minute or two. Next place them in a colander and carefully squeeze out the excess water. Now you can use the nettles to replace the basil in your pesto recipe.
Here is a simple wild crafted nettle pesto recipe:
- 4 cups of blanched nettles, pureed in a blender with a ¼ cup of olive oil
- ¼ cup of parmesan cheese
- 2 or 3 cloves of garlic
- ¼ cup of walnuts or pine nuts if you are independently wealthy
- 1 teaspoon of salt and some fresh ground black pepper.
This healthy pesto tastes amazing on a homemade pizza crust. Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes and spicy prosciutto ham for a great gourmet meal. Leftover pesto can be frozen in plastic ice-cube trays and then put into freezer bags to use in a quick pasta dish when you are in a hurry.
Our nettle pesto pizza is always a hit at potlucks.
One of my favourite Nettle patches on Gabriola Island.
Stay tuned for my Nettle Shampoo bar recipe.