An herbalist and a cook go off into the woods. And what do they find? STINGING NETTLES! An abundance of green leafy plants blanketing the forest in patches amongst looming evergreen trees. “They’re furry and delicious,” says the herbalist who is also a Seattle naturopathic doctor. Oh yeah, “they sting too.” Thus launched “Operation: Nettle Kettle” as we happily trotted through the trails of Cougar Mountain not far from downtown Seattle.
Stinging nettles are packed with nutrients and are easy to cook as long as you know how to handle them. Rich in nutrients and medicinal properties, nettles can be used in place of many greens in your recipes. Don’t despair if you can’t make it out to the trails or don’t want to go. Depending on your area, a local farmers market may carry them in the spring season.
Upon return to the cook’s home with our bags of nettles, we set to work snipping and washing the leaves to enjoy for dinner. The menu for the evening included Nettle Chowder and Nettle Pizza, both made from scratch and in a vegan style. Here is a comparable recipe for the chowder, to which our modifications included a roux base for thickening, vegetable broth, and the addition of diced butternut squash and carrots to up the veggie nutrient factor. We topped a pizza crust with homemade marinara sauce, shredded soy cheese, and a sauteed mixture of chopped eggplant, shallot, and nettles. No dinner is complete without a bottle of wine to toast the culinary adventures. Success! Needless (nettle-less?) to say, our forest walk was an uplifting and healthy experience in more ways than one.
Since there were additional nettle leaves available for later cooking, the home cook came up with a few other delicious dinners. Bonus uses for your nettles:
– Dry any remaining leaves then step in boiling water to create a richly-infused nettle tea
– Stir chopped fresh nettles into creamy risotto with other seasonal vegetables
– Cook a blend of lentils, couscous, sliced nettles, and tomatoes flavored with cinnamon applesauce to stuff into acorn squash before topping with caramelized onions
You, too, can reap the health benefits of nettles along with the satisfaction in experimenting with a new ingredient. So grab your gloves for some forest love and dish up some nettl-icious goodness!