Wild Things in June - Nettle



Ladies and gents, meet your featured herbs for the Wild Things Round Up in the month of June - stinging nettle!

Can I just admit, I only recently met nettle, myself?

I feel that as someone who is passionate about foraging, there are certain slam-dunk herbs that I should know well and have ready access to.  Because of they are so nutritious and a powerhouse of medicinal properties, nettles are high on that list.  But all last year, I failed to find a single plant.

And yeah, I was totally disappointed.

So, this year, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I bought a small nettle start at the nursery, and guerrilla gardened it in a nearby ditch.

And let me tell you, guerrilla gardening a plant that you can't find is a surefire way to suddenly find great quantities of said plant growing wild.  Not four days after, I found nettles growing wild in two different locations.

Sigh, plants can be such tricksters.

But now I'm super psyched to take advantage of this versatile food, and also use it for its medicinal value.  If you'd like to learn more about how nettle is used in herbal medicine, visit my partner Bek of Cauldrons and Crockpots.  You'll be amazed by all this humble plant has to offer.

How to Find Stinging Nettle

I find that nettle looks very much like members of the mint family,  like spearmint or catnip, only with longer leaves which are very toothed.  Nettle is covered with fine, but visible hairs, which sting when touched.  After flowering, it develops drooping green (then brown) seed clusters.  Nettle can grow to be up to six feet tall, and often favors rich soil, such as that which is full of manure.

If you're very unsure as to the identification of nettle, go ahead, and grasp a good handful, as I did one time while hiking as a teen (in an effort to pull myself up a hill).  If it hurts like hell, as if you've been stung by a swarm of jellyfish - ta da, you have yourself some nettle!

If, however, you are certain of your identification, or if you're just a wuss, wear gloves when collecting nettle (or use tongs).  Nettle is lovely in the spring while still tender, but can get a bit fibrous as the summer wears on.  I like to count down through the top three sets of leaves and snap off there, assuring tender growth.

And continue to wear gloves when handling nettle in the kitchen, as it can still sting you, up until the time it hits the heat, or is thoroughly dried.  Don't eat this green raw, folks!  Instead, use it as you would spinach, and go wild coming up with some fabulous recipes to share this month.

Vietnamese-Inspired Nettle Soup

Begin by quickly grilling some non-lean dark meat pork, which has been seasoned with salt and pepper.  I like pork neck bones, but pretty much any cut qill work, so long as it's fatty and dark.  Don't worry about cooking the meat through, just get some nice color on it. 

Saute garlic (I used wild garlic), a spoonful of coriander seeds, and two star anise in lard, until the garlic is translucent and the spices become fragrant.  Add the grilled pork, a sliced chile of your choice, and cover with water.  Let simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until the meat falls off the bone.

Roughly chop a big bunch of nettle (remember to wear your gloves), and add to the broth.  Let simmer for another ten minutes to cook through.  Season with salt to taste.

Serve the soup over soaked rice or mung bean noodles.  Garnish with fresh herbs such as cilantro or mint, more thinly sliced chiles, and crushed peanuts.

Yummy!  Eat your greens.



The Wild Things Round Up is a foraging recipe challenge.  Harvest the featured herb, cook up something fab, write a post, then send it to wildthings.roundup@gmail.com .  If you're not familiar with the rules of a round up, check this out.

Comments

  1. yum, I love stinging nettle, I like it better than spinach and it keeps longer, too! I have two recipes I love to make, but neither is an original, I found them online, I guess I should try to think up something of my own to submit. A tea made from nettles (just steep in hot water) is very handy for allergies. And in biodynamic gardening they suggest it as a great compost booster (lots of trace minerals)

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  2. D - Good point about it keeping longer, that is very handy. I've a good friend who will be in town starting next week who very much needs nettle for her allergies.

    Love your original recipes, and can't wait to see what you come up with. I thought your dandy recipe was great!

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  3. I just learned how to find this at a recent foraging class!

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  4. Awesomesauce, Wendy! So, what are you cooking up with your forage? I'm so interested to see what you are cooking with nettle! Honestly =)

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  5. I made nettle and chicken meat balls. No recipe on my site, but dang, nettles are good!!! I also made nettle and cheese lasagna roll ups. Absolutely divine! Nettle doesn't grow near me- I need to head into the city to find it, but its one of my favorites!

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  6. Our nettles come much earlier, this was posted in May. Now our nettles are flowering, so no more gathering unless we chop down the field and let new shoots come up.

    http://the3foragers.blogspot.com/2011/05/stinging-nettles-recipe-nettle-lentil.html

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  7. Hey Penny - If you post a mettle recipe, be certain to let me know :) Always love your ideas.

    3F - Have you ever tried nettle seeds?

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  8. Oh, I am very sad to say we do not have any nettles around these parts. I have long drunk nettle tea because I love it, but have never had the pleasure of eating it in any food sort of way. I think it only fitting that in this big country of ours that some wild foods would grow in some places and not in others, but this is one that I would love to try, though I am sure, I am not missing the nettle stings! Hugs! alex

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  9. Well then, all the more reason to visit me, right, Alex?

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  10. So did you sneak plant them in CO? They grow here? LMK And I will plant some place in The suburbs of Denver! I have always wanted to try them.

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    1. I did guerilla garden them where I used to live. There are plenty of nettles in the suburbs of Denver. Keep a careful eye open along the ditches :)

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  11. Can I still eat these now?

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    1. That depends upon where you are. With nettle, it is better to stick with young plants. Older leaves can be hard on the kidneys.

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  12. Scored a big bag of nettles yesterday on opening day of the Portland Farmers Market. Several vendors had them. This soup looks delicious. So refreshing and simple enough that the flavor of the nettles will hopefully shine through. I live walking distance to Portland's Chinatown, so will run over and grab a roasted duck to try in this soup. Thanks for the inspiration. Great post!

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