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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org . If you're not familiar with the rules of a round up, check this out.