Stinging Nettles. . .those darn plants that literally sting you as you are walking in a wild grass mix or by a river. They are super nutritious and extra delicious though! Stinging nettle is high in vitamins and minerals including iron, silica, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E as well as tannins, histamine, chlorophyll, and glucoquinine. The water-soluble polysaccharides in nettles stimulate the immune system, and large protein-sugar molecules known as lectins. The flavonoids and potassium in nettle leaves are responsible for their diuretic action. We love to eat this wild edible throughout the spring and to dry it for use in tea all summer and winter! Here are a couple of our favorite recipes:
Nettle Pesto~ What I love about pesto is that there are a million varieties! Try garlic scapes in place of garlic or sunflower seeds in place of pine nuts! I sometimes like to add a bit of dandelion greens and chickweed for a great wild edibles spring pesto! Be creative~
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Place the Pesto in a sterilized jar and pour a little extra olive oil over the top and seal well with a lid. Refrigerate until ready to use. Pesto will keep for up to a month in well sealed jar in the refrigerator.
Nettle Spring Soup~
- 3 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 2 leeks, cut into rounds
- 1/2 pound wild nettle tops (for handling tips, see Stinging Nettles 101)
- 1 quart filtered water
- 1 bouquet garni (little bundle of herbs tied with a string) containing any or all of these: a bay leaf, sprigs of thyme, parsley stems, and sage leaves
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup crème fraiche, sweet cream, or half and half, or to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Nutmeg to taste
- Sauté leeks in butter or olive oil. Add water and bring to a boil.
- Add nettles (being careful not to touch them with your bare hands!), bay leaf and water.
- Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until the nettles are very soft.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the cream, crème fraiche or half and half.
- Remove the bouquet garni from the soup, turn the heat to low, and puree using an immersion blender, adding a generous pinch of salt and a grind of pepper.
- Take a ladleful of soup and stir it into the egg mixture.
- Return the egg-nettle mixture to the soup and stir gently over very low heat (do not let it boil again)
- Grate some fresh nutmeg into the soup, taste and add more salt as necessary to make it savory and delicious